Tourist was mauled to death by lions after leaving tent open

A British wildlife lover was mauled to death by lions while on a safari holiday in Zimbabwe, an inquest heard yesterday.

A British wildlife lover was mauled to death by lions while on a safari holiday in Zimbabwe, an inquest heard yesterday.

David Pleydell-Bouverie, 19, was sleeping inside a tent when he was attacked by a pride of lions in what his parents described as a "freak accident".

Safari guides tried to scare the lions away by lighting flares, driving a Land Rover at them and setting fire to a shirt, but they were unable to save the teenager, who was confirmed dead on arrival at Spurwing Island, Lake Kariba.

The hearing, at Hitchin coroner's court, was told that Mr Pleydell-Bouverie, from Bedfordshire, fled from his tent after a lion put its head inside.

David Boyle, one of the tourists on the photographic safari, said in a statement read to the inquest: "I woke up to go to the toilet. I heard a long yell, but I didn't know if it was human or animal. The yell was long and loud and was suddenly cut off, followed by the prolonged sound of growling of animals, which I assumed was lions."

The safari guide Bradley Fouche said, also in a statement read to the court, that he had gone to Mr Pleydell-Bouverie's rescue after being woken at 1.30am when he heard the young man shouting his name.

"In the moonlight I saw movement and realised that for some reason David was running away from his tent," Mr Fouche. He said he took his handgun but by the time he had arrived the lions and the teenager had disappeared into the bushes. "I lit flares which detonated to make a loud noise. In the light of the flare I could see David was surrounded and covered by approximately 12 lions. I tried to see if I could get a clear shot of the lions without hitting David."

He added: "I told the tent staff to get the vehicle and drive it at the lions, to get them to disperse and for further light. It wasn't possible to get a clear shot and when the vehicle arrived I realised I could do nothing further for David."

A lioness's tooth was later found inside Mr Pleydell-Bouverie's tent, said Mr Fouche, adding that two lions which were shot after the attack were found to be the culprits.

Dr Nat Cary, the Home Office pathologist who examined Mr Pleydell-Bouverie's body after it was flown back to Britain, told the hearing that the multiple injuries he had suffered were consistent with a lion attack.

Ivan Carter, owner of Ivan Carter Safaris, which organised the trip, said in a statement read to the hearing that tourists were told to keep their tents zipped shut at night and to stay in the tent and blow a whistle which was provided if they were in danger, rather than running to fetch help. Mr Fouche said David appeared to have slept with his tent open on the night of the attack, and none of the people interviewed by Zimbabwean police remembered hearing a whistle.

Mr Pleydell-Bouverie, the son of the former High Sheriff of Hertfordshire Richard Pleydell-Bouverie, went to Maidwell Hall School, Northampton, and Harrow, in north-west London, and stood to inherit his family's 2,000-acre estate. He was the grandson of the 7th Earl of Radnor.

His family said in a statement: "The family would like it to be known that they believe David's death was a tragic and freak accident and do not feel that the guide or the organisation are to blame in any way."

The Hitchin District Coroner, Dr John Vick, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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