Protester 'sacrificed' under cattle truck wheels

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The Independent Online
Jill Phipps, crushed to death under the wheels of a cattle truck in February, was "sacrificed" to the veal calf trade, her mother told Coventry coroner's courtyesterday.

Nancy Phipps said they had been protesting against the veal trade through Coventry airport and described how, on February 1 this year, her daughter moved out of her mother's sight and began running towards a truck carrying calves to be flown to Europe from the airport.

Mrs Phipps heard someone was under the wheels of a lorry and realised it was her daughter. A policeman tried to comfort her as a medical team battled to save Jill's life.

"The policeman was very kind to me. He put his arms around me," Mrs Phipps said.

"I shut my eyes and prayed she was going to be okay. I was rushing down a dark tunnel. I was praying: 'Jilly don't leave me.'"

The court was shown a police security video which captured the last moments of Jill Phipps' life. She, together with up to eight other demonstrators, had become separated from the main body of protesters as police began to clear the road, ready for the arrival of livestock trucks.

They spread out and several began trotting towards an advancing police van and cattle truck.

One protester lay in the path of the truck but was swiftly removed by a policeman. Jill Phipps and another protester continued to move towards the truck, while another attempted to climb underneath it from the rear.

The truck kept rolling forward as Jill Phipps began waving her arms in the air. Seconds later, the truck struck her. A front wheel rolled on to her stomach and chest, and came to rest on top of her. She was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

Dr Timothy Ashworth, from Walsgrave hospital in Coventry, who carried out the post-mortem, said Jill Phipps' rib cage had been crushed with many fragments passing into her lungs. Her spine was also "completely severed halfway down her chest".

"Loss of consciousness and death were likely to have been immediate," he said.

Superintendent David Whitehouse, of Warwickshire police, who was in operational command that day, defended his approach to policing.

Mike Mansfield, QC, acting for the Phipps family, said Supt Whitehouse's policing tactics could be summed up as "keep the lorries moving and they'll get out of the way".

Supt Whitehouse said his policing priority was to ensure the safety of protestors and others present in the area.

The inquest is expected to last a further three days.