Dog walker on holiday trampled to death by herd of cows
Kathy McKellar was described as being fiercely independent
A “fiercely independent” woman was trampled to death by a herd of cows while walking her dog during a countryside holiday.
Kathy McKellar was staying in a cottage near Grindleton, in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, in September last year with her beloved cockapoo, Archie, when she was killed.
On 25 September, the pair went out for a walk across some fields but only Archie returned to the holiday home.
When the cottage’s owner, John Turner, came across Archie and was unable to find McKellar, he called 999 before heading out to look for her himself.
She was eventually found the following morning in a field which was being grazed by around 25 Limousin cows with calves and one bull.
Farmer David Towler was checking his cattle when he discovered McKellar’s body, lying with her arm under a wire fence, at the other end of the field from where a public footpath passes through.
McKellar was pronounced dead at the scene, with a post-mortem CT scan revealing she died from traumatic chest injuries including fractured vertebrae and ribs.
At an inquest held on Monday, her son Andy described her as a "fiercely independent" woman who loved tennis, walking and baking, and was still working part-time at 74.
"She would go on this sort of holiday regularly, she did everything for herself, and she brought up my brother and I pretty much on her own," he said.
He added: "She loved being outside and walking the dog; it was their happy place.”
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McKellar grew up in nearby Clitheroe before moving to Macclesfield to start a family. After the death of her mother two years ago, she felt more connected to her roots by returning to the area.
Towler, who runs his 200-acre farm with his son William, said he had not had any issues with his cows or bulls being aggressive and would sell any that showed unusual behaviour or temperament.
"They can be quite protective when they have calves but only in the first few weeks; these calves were around five months old," he added.
"We have two sheepdogs and we have sheep grazing with the cows so they're used to my dogs being around."
The inquest heard that there had been a previous incident involving a walker suffering an injury when she disturbed some sleeping cows in one of Mr Towler's fields in 2018.
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In response the Health and Safety Executive advised Mr Towler to move the water and feed troughs and put up a warning sign.
An HSE investigation after McKellar’s death found Towler had followed all guidance issued to farmers regarding keeping members of the public safe from cattle.
However, because the specific circumstances leading to McKellar’s death were not known, the farmer was issued with a notice requiring him to fence off the public footpath in this particular field.
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McKellar’s son suggested that tougher regulations should be put in place to prevent people suffering the same fate as his mother.
"Guidelines are guidelines; you don't have to follow them and I just don't want to see this happen to anyone else,” he said.
On average, there is one death a year in the UK relating to a member of the public being trampled by cattle, the inquest heard.
During 2021 there were five fatalities but this was during Covid lockdown when people spent more time walking.