Cow attack left dog walker dead and wife paralysed after being trampled on public path

Theresa and Michael Holmes
-Credit: (Image: CFG Law / SWNS)


A man died and his wife was left permanently paralysed after being attacked by cows during a lunchtime stroll. Michael Holmes, 57, was pronounced dead at the scene of the attack which left him with 35 rib fractures as well as a lacerated heart.

His wife Teresa was airlifted to hospital, where she spent six months recovering from her injuries. However she will never walk again as her spinal cord was damaged in the incident which happened on a public footpath.

Now the farmer who was responsible for the land has appeared in court accused of health and safety breaches. Martin Mitchell admitted breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act and was given a suspended six-month jail term after prosecutors said he'd failed to ensure cows with calves were suitably segregated from the public footpath.

The court was told how the Leeds couple, who had been married for 34 years, regularly walked the route during their lunch breaks as they worked from home during lockdown. On the day of the attack, in September 2020, they were walking their daughter's dogs on Hollinghurst Farm in Netherton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

As there were signs warning dog walkers to keep their animals on a lead they thought it would be safe to travel through the field only to be attacked. CCTV footage shows how the cows "accelerated" towards them.

Left to right Michael Holmes's mum Irene Holmes his widow Teresa Holmes and his sister Debra Curtis outside Wakefield justice and civil centre
Left to right Michael Holmes's mum Irene Holmes his widow Teresa Holmes and his sister Debra Curtis outside Wakefield justice and civil centre -Credit:Ashley Pemberton / SWNS

They were both knocked to the ground but the dogs escaped and were found by a neighbour who raised the alarm. Michael died at the scene and Teresa, who was knocked unconscious in the incident, woke in hospital a week later to be told her husband died.

She spent the following six months in hospital as she recovered from her injuries, which included spinal fractures, spinal cord injuries and fractured ribs. However she was forced to take medical retirement as a result of her injuries, which have left her permanently in a wheelchair.

In a victim personal statement, Teresa said: “Having to cope with two traumas has been very difficult – losing Michael and suffering life-changing injuries. I sustained a spinal cord injury which left me paralysed from the waist down.

“I now have to use a wheelchair. This has transformed my life beyond anything I could ever imagine. The course of my life, and my late husband’s, has been thrown into great turmoil as a result of the farmer’s negligence.”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Mitchell had failed to ensure that the risks to members of the public were controlled. Speaking after sentencing, HSE inspector Sally Gay said: “Large animals can be a risk to people. Even a gentle knock from a cow can result in injury.

“Seemingly docile cattle can pose a risk to walkers when they are under stress or feel threatened and can exhibit instinctive maternal or aggressive behaviour. This tragic incident could easily have been avoided if basic precautions had been taken by the farmer.

"Readily available HSE guidance states that, where possible, cows with calves should not be grazed in fields where there is a public right of way. Where this is not possible they should be segregated from the footpath by appropriate fencing where it is reasonable to do so.”