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Woman's death may stay mystery

PUBLISHED: 15:25 19 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:25 05 July 2010

THE owner of a farm path network which was closed for two weeks following the tragic death of a woman - fatally injured by cattle - has thanked the many people who sent messages of sympathy and support following the incident.

THE owner of a farm path network which was closed for two weeks following the tragic death of a woman - fatally injured by cattle - has thanked the many people who sent messages of sympathy and support following the incident.

Sandra Pearce, 45, died on April 27 while taking her dogs for a walk at South Elmham Hall, in the “saints” villages, near Halesworth.

The farm, which has a network of paths through beautiful countryside, is popular with walkers who also use a restaurant and visitors centre in a converted building known as Bateman's Barn.

Owner, John Sanderson, rushed to Ms Pearce's aid and tried to resuscitate her. The East Anglian Air Ambulance was called out and paramedics spent around an hour at the scene vainly trying to save her life.

In his first Press interview since the tragedy, Mr Sanderson said that he and his partner, Nicole Cook, had kept the farm and its restaurant and visitors' centre closed to the public for two weeks “out of respect to the dead woman's family and because everyone has been shocked and saddened by the incident”.

He said people were still able to follow trails - including public footpaths - through fields where cattle were grazing but further alternatives had been provided for people who wanted to avoid the livestock altogether.

“There were alternatives available at the time but we have created further alternatives in the light of what happened although we don't necessarily think livestock normally present a danger to walkers,” he said.

The Health and Safety Executive had launched an investigation but what exactly happened to cause the woman's death might never be known because it appears nobody saw the incident, only its aftermath, Mr Sanderson said.

He believed she had been kicked by the cattle while trying to protect her dogs and had not been trampled, as repeatedly stated in media reports.

The cattle involved in the incident were from the farm's suckler herd of brown and white Simmentals.

Ms Pearce was a probation officer based at Lowestoft. She qualified in October 1993 having undertaken a programme of training in Hull and Suffolk.

Her family has thanked those who went to her aid. Nicola McKiggen , her niece, said: “Knowing that the farmer, paramedics and other people were there with her gives our family great comfort to know she was not alone and we are all very grateful to these people.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has issued advice for dog walkers passing near to livestock.

A spokesman said: “All animals are unpredictable and they can behave in ways you are not expecting. Keep your dog on a lead if you are around animals. If you start to be chased by an animal, let your dog off the lead. That can defuse the situation and is better than trying to protect it.”

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