Monday, 14 June 2021
A FARMER was trampled to death by a herd of young bulls as he was trying to feed them, an inquest heard.
Oliver Bowden, 56, of Mill End Farm in Hambleden, was found dead in the corner of the bull pen on May 5 last year.
He had suffered multiple injuries consistent with trampling, Beaconsfield Coroner’s Court was told on Tuesday.
It is believed that Mr Bowden was trying to feed the 17 uncastrated bulls alone when the incident happened.
His daughter, Isobel Connell, told the court that uncastrated bulls are known to be aggressive and are worse at feeding times.
Mr Bowden, who was a popular figure in the Hambleden Valley, was found by fellow farmer Samuel Beer, who called for an ambulance after being attacked by a bull himself when trying to check for his colleague’s pulse.
Paramedics from South Central Ambulance Service and an air ambulance team attempted to treat Mr Bowden but he was pronounced dead at the scene at 3.49pm.
Mr Beer was taken to hospital for his injuries.
Mariusz Krawczyk, a stockman at the farm, said in his witness statement that Mr Bowden had always asked for help to feed the bulls.
He explained that Mr Bowden and another person would use the boom pole on the Merlo Multifarmer telescopic tractor to trap the animals at one end of the bull pen.
One person would then make sure the bulls were secure while the other put food in the feeder or sorted out their bedding.
Mr Krawczyk said: “Oliver would ask me or someone else to help him feed the bulls. I’ve not seen Oliver try to do this job by himself except for when the animals were small — he always told us not to do it by ourselves.” The inquest heard that the tractor was found parked up against the pen with the boom pole extended inside and reaching the ground.
The pure bred dairy bulls, aged from eight to 20 months, were inside with a red and orange feeder.
Mr Krawczyk said: “When we were allowed to move the Merlo there were two foot marks at the back of the pen, which shows someone had climbed over.”
The inquest heard that the pen was large enough to allow the bulls to roam around freely.
Mr Bowden was found in the right-hand corner of the pen with blood on his head and face.
His right shoe and parts of his mobile phone were also found in the pen, although they had been moved around by the bulls.
Mr Beer, who has been a farmer for Mr Bowden since 2015, had been working in a different area of the farm in the morning and didn’t return to the main yard until about 2.45pm.
In his witness statement, he said: “I saw Oliver at 8.30am wearing blue trousers, a checked shirt and bright braces — we passed each other going about our daily work When I completed my jobs I went back to the main farm and I saw a tractor and other equipment left around which wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“I went to the bottom yard and saw a bucket outside the bull pen and I wasn’t sure why it was there as it’s used for feeding.
“ I jumped into the bull pen and in the corner I saw a shoe and I was instantly in a panic. I saw Oliver lying on the floor and he had blood over his face and head. I tried to find a pulse.
“A bull then started attacking me and I’m not sure how many times it kicked me. At 3.19pm I called 999 and I kept trying to find Oliver’s pulse.
“As I was doing this, I was still being attacked by a bull and I picked up a stick to try to fight it off and protect Oliver.
“I had no idea how long he was lying there as I hadn’t seen him since 8.30am.
“The ambulance soon arrived and helped me get him out of the bull pen and I was taken to hospital for my injuries.”
A post mortem found Mr Bowden had suffered “crushing injuries” to his chest and abdomen.
He was the third generation of his family to farm at Mill End Farm and lived there with Anita Tackley, his partner of 15 years. In her witness report, Ms Tackley said the morning of the incident seemed like any other day.
The couple had tea and toast together and watched the weather forecast before he went out to feed the cows.
She last saw him at noon when he came into the house laughing before quickly returning to the farm which she said wasn’t unusual.
There were no witnesses to the incident and senior coroner Crispin Butler concluded that it was “something that occurred very tragically with no one around to witness it but Oliver Bowden”.
The jury concluded it was death by misadventure.
The 17 bulls have since been slaughtered and the farm no longer raises calves to be used for beef.
Mr Bowden’s funeral was held two weeks after his death and hundreds of people turned out to see the cortege accompanied by more than 45 agricultural vehicles. The procession made its way slowly from the Hambleden to Henley before heading to Reading Crematorium in Caversham, where a service was held for a small group of family members.
Mr Bowden took over the lease of the farm in 1993 after his father George passed away.
Last month, a tree was planted in memory of Mr Bowden at Couchfield Barn, off the footpath on the village outskirts.
The Lebanese cedar sapling, which could grow up to 40m tall, is accompanied by a plaque engraved by Henley stonemasons E T Sheppard.
This carries the inscription: “Oliver Bowden, much-loved farmer and friend of this valley. 1963-2020.”
Organiser Kate Waddington, a lifelong friend, funded both through an online appeal which also raised about £30,000 for Mr Bowden’s sons George, 13, and Archie, 11, to follow him into the profession.
14 April 2021
POLL: Have your say