A FARMER who grew up near Stafford has been cleared of manslaughter after a walker was killed by one of his bulls.
Paul Waterfall, who came from the Seighford area but now farms in Nottinghamshire, walked free from Nottingham Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday) after a jury found him not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.
The 39-year-old, of Underhill Farm, Stanford on Soar, had denied the charge after Roger Freeman was attacked as he walked with his wife on a footpath across the dairy farmer's land in 2010.
Prosecutors said Mr Waterfall knew the Brown Swiss bull Moonriver Zac Pi, also known as Zac, posed a “deadly risk”.
But the father-of-two denied knowing the bull was aggressive or that it posed a risk to members of the public. The court was told Zac had never showed any aggression, and that if he had Mr Freeman would not have hesitated in sending him to slaughter.
Agricultural worker Alan Ball, giving evidence, described Mr Waterfall’s attitude to safety on the farm as “excellent.”
Mr and Mrs Freeman, who were married for 42 years, were experienced ramblers and were walking the 15 miles from Nottingham to Loughborough when the incident took place around 4.30pm on November 12, 2010.
The couple, who had seen cattle in the field, carried on walking on the public footpath across Mr Waterfall's field when Mr Freeman was attacked.
The court heard Zac was in the field with a number of cows of different breeds.
Prosecutors claimed it was the bull who attacked Mr Freeman, charging at him and tossing him in the air, and stripping him of his walking clothing.
Mrs Freeman, from Glen Parva, Leicestershire, told police she believed a bull with 12in horns attacked her after she tried to defend her husband from the animal. However the trial heard Zac did not have horns.
Zac was put down after the attack on Mr Freeman. Giving evidence during the trial, Mrs Freeman said she was no longer sure the animal that attacked her and her husband had horns.
There were sighs of relief from family and friends of Mr Waterfall who had sat through the trial, including his wife Julia.
Following the verdict, Judge Gregory Dickinson QC told the court: "Whatever the verdict, I have no doubt all the jury felt enormous sympathy for Mrs Freeman and for family and friends.
"I express my sympathies and condolences to the family, who have been through a horrible ordeal."
The judge also criticised the time it took to charge Mr Waterfall following the incident.
The farmer was charged last year following Mr Freeman's death in 2010.
Mr Dickinson said: "I struggle to understand how it took so long as to come to a decision to charge.
"The Crown Prosecution Service should look very carefully at the history of this case to find out what lessons can be learned."
The judge also said the case questioned the importance of leaving health and safety issues to self-regulation.
After the hearing, Mr Waterfall declined to comment out of respect for the Freeman family but said he was relieved the case was over.