Teens woke to bear shaking tent, inquest hears

Salisbury Journal: Horatio Chapple Horatio Chapple

THE inquest into the death of Bishopstone teenager Horatio Chapple has heard from two friends who were sharing a tent with him on the night he was attacked and killed by a polar bear.

Horatio, 17, a pupil at Eton, died on an expedition to Svalbard in Norway organised by the British Schools Expedition Society (BSES) in 2011.

Four others were hurt before the animal was shot dead by one of the group leaders.

Horatio was asleep in a tent alongside Patrick Flinders, 17, and 16-year-old Scott Bennell-Smith when the animal attacked.

Mr Bennell-Smith told the inquest at Salisbury Coroners Court today that he awoke to something shaking the tent.

“Initially when the tent was shaking I thought someone might be shaking it to wake us up,” he said.

He said he realised it was much more serious when the bear came onto the top of the tent.

“I could tell the size of it and weight of it and I could feel paws close by,” he added. “The material kind of collapsed over me and I couldn’t see what was happening.”

Mr Flinders said: “When I heard it I thought people were messing around from another group, I thought they were trying to scare us. I then realised as soon as the tent collapsed.”

Mr Bennell-Smith and Mr Flinders both told the court they briefly saw the bear attacking someone and thought it was one of the leaders.

“I had my head down again and I tried to stay still. Then I could just hear the bear moving around the camp, I just heard commotion,” said Mr Bennell-Smith.

He also said he heard someone shouting to leader Michael Reid, known as Spike, asking what they should do, and another asking where the bullets were.

Mr Flinders said: “Once the tent collapsed I got into a little ball and moved myself over to Scott. I’m not sure if Horatio got himself out of the tent or not.”

Mr Bennell-Smith said: “Pat was making noises and I wasn’t sure whether the bear was back on him at this point or not. I now realise the bear came over and started attacking him,” he said. “I got out of my sleeping bag and tried to run away from it.”

Mr Bennell-Smith, who was attacked by the bear and left with head injuries, heard a shot and saw the bear go down.

The inquest continues.

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