Polar bear schoolboy death: Victim had found paw print days before

Horatio Chapple Horatio Chapple was described as "a fine young gentleman with amazing potential"

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A 17-year-old boy who was mauled to death by a polar bear on an Arctic exhibition found a paw print two days earlier, an inquest has heard.

Horatio Chapple, from Salisbury, was on an adventure holiday in August 2011 with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) when he died.

The Eton schoolboy was asleep in his tent when the bear dragged him out, inflicting fatal injuries.

Four others were hurt before the bear was shot dead.

'Increased bear activities'

Also injured in the attack were trip leader Michael "Spike" Reid, from Plymouth, Andrew Ruck, from Brighton, Patrick Flinders, from Jersey, and Scott Bennell-Smith, from St Mellion in Cornwall.

Lauren Beech, from Guildford, Surrey, told the inquest Mr Chapple found a bear print in the ground two days before the attack.

Bear being examined The shot bear was sent for examination by experts

Describing the discovery on 3 August, she said: "That was the day that Horatio noticed the prints of the polar bear.

"We were advised by the leader they were approximately two to four days old and they were facing in the direction of base camp.

"I remember there was more than one there, one was very distinct and I remember several of us taking photos."

She added: "It may make me sound naive but I remember thinking 'wow, it's a polar bear footprint' but I do not remember it making me any more worried."

'Playing a prank'

Ms Beech found out after the incident the local authorities had issued a warning about increased polar bear activities in recent months before the attack.

She had also heard rumours another group had seen a polar bear, the court was told.

Another member of the group, Timothy Child, told the inquest he was woken by shouting.

Initially he thought it was people "playing a prank" but then saw the bear "about 30ft (10m) from the tent".

Mr Child said he saw the bear dragging someone out of the tent "roughly" by the shoulder.

He briefly looked away and within seconds he saw the individual stand up.

"The bear reared up as well," Mr Child said, adding:"... the bear knocked that person to the ground".

Horatio Chapple had seen polar bear paw prints just days before the attack, as Jon Kay reports.

Mr Child told the court that when he later stood at Mr Chapple's feet "there was no sign of movement".

Mr Bennell-Smith, who was 16 at the time, told the inquest the tent he was sharing with Mr Chapple and Mr Flindlers began "shaking" as if someone was trying to wake them up.

He said the tent roof collapsed and all the occupants could feel the weight of the bear on them.

'Shot heard'

"I could feel the size of it and see its paws, "Mr Bennell-Smith said.

When the bear moved off, he saw it attacking another explorer and biting that person, he added.

He recalled someone asking Mr Reid what they should do, while someone else asked where the bullets for the gun were.

The bear came back towards the collapsed tent and Mr Bennell-Smith got out of his sleeping bag and tried to run away, he said.

But the animal then attacked him and knocked him to the ground before it moved away, he told the court.

He then heard a shot and saw the bear go down.

The inquest continues.

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