Farmer tried to drown me in slurry, vet tells court

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The Independent Online

An angry farmer held a government vet's face under inches of slurry until she could not breathe - after she went on to his land to inspect his animals, a court heard yesterday.

Roger Baker, 61, also threatened to kill a separate animal health inspector in the incident, Taunton Crown Court heard.

The farmer, who lives in a caravan on land at Ventongimps, near Truro in Cornwall, denies making threats to Cornwall County Council inspector Jonathan McCulloch on 25 February last year and denies a second charge of affray.

The court was told Mr Baker, ran at Mr McCulloch, 27, and government vet Susan Potter, 46, during their visit to his farm. The two officials were on Baker's premises after a call from a person who feared Baker's animals were being maltreated.

After the call was received by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Mrs Potter, head vet with the State Veterinary Service in Cornwall, arranged for Mr McCulloch and herself to visit the farm the following day.

They arranged for four police officers to be on hand and Mr McCulloch also invited a BBC TV crew from the Spotlight series which had been following his department's work.

The court was told Baker, who farmed two plots of land near the village, appeared "from nowhere" to attack the officials in his slurry-filled farmyard. He grabbed Mr McCulloch and dragged him across the yard by his overalls into the slurry pit, the jury heard.

As Mr McCulloch shouted for help, Mrs Potter, who was attempting to film on her video camera, stopped filming, the jury heard. She tried to rescue Mr McCulloch, but was then attacked, the court was told.

Mrs Potter, aged 46, told the jury yesterday how she "fought like a wildcat" to get out of the knee-deep mixture of manure, urine and mud as Mr Baker held her down. She fought him off by kicking him in the groin and beating him about the head with her camcorder.

Mrs Potter told the court: "Mr Baker let Jonathan go and grabbed me instead and pushed me back into the slurry. I was on my back and he had his left hand on my throat and his other hand on my face.

"He was pushing me underneath the slurry. I went completely underneath the liquid. My face was being held in the slurry which was liquid mud mixed with animal faeces and urine . . . I thought he was trying to drown me and I fought him like a wildcat.

"When I came up out of the mud my ears, eyes, mouth and nose were completely covered in liquid muck. I heard Jonathan asking Mr Baker to let go and saying it would not do him any good," she said.

Mrs Potter said her colleague ran to fetch police who were waiting at the gate of the farm but she was too weak to run and staggered behind him to safety. Mr McCulloch, who suffered bruises to his neck and a split lip, told the jury that the slurry was knee-deep in places.

He went on to describe how Mr Baker threatened to kill him while he was allegedly attacking Mrs Potter.

He said: "He turned round and snarled at me. He said something along the lines of, 'When I have finished with her, I will f***ing kill you too'."

Mr McCulloch said he believed Mr Baker was trying to kill Mrs Potterby "drowning her in the slurry".

Mr McCulloch said Baker finally ended the attack when he warned him he would end up in jail for life if he carried on and assured him the vet and him were allowed onto his land.

The case continues.