Home » World News » Dog that savaged Freddie the Seal ‘belongs to top lawyer educated at Oxford’
Dog that savaged Freddie the Seal ‘belongs to top lawyer educated at Oxford’
March 24, 2021
A top lawyer has been named as the owner of a dog that fatally savaged a seal on the banks of the Thames, near Barnes, west London, on Sunday March 21.
The ten-month-old seal pup had become a regular sight in the area, with locals nicknaming the animal Freddie Mercury.
Freddie had suffered one or two close calls before: a team from British Divers Marine Life Rescue [BDMLR] had managed to remove some discarded fishing tackle which was hooked onto his mouth, and was preventing him from feeding properly.
As they did so they found found a tag that had been fitted to the seal by a vet in the Netherlands, suggesting that he had previously been treated there.
But after assessing Freddie’s latest injuries, vets at South Essex Wildlife Hospital decided that he was too badly hurt and made the sad decision to put him down.
Local photographer Duncan Phillips saw the dog attack incident. He had been photographing Freddie as he basked on a slipway near Hammersmith Bridge.
But as he was moving around to get the perfect shot, Duncan told The Times, he saw the owner of a dog frantically chasing after her dog as it ran towards the seal.
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“I heard someone shouting at their dog and the next thing I see is this dog going for the seal and locking it in its jaws," he said, "it was very savage.”
The dog owner, now identified as Rebecca Sabben-Clare, an Oxford-educated QC , reportedly looked “distraught” as she tried to prise her dog’s jaws off the stricken seal.
When she eventually did, it was unfortunately too late. A number of people reportedly made abusive remarks to Sabben-Clare, 49, as she left the scene with her dog.
Ms Rebecca Sabben-Clare has since issued a statement, saying: “As an animal lover, I fully understand the dismay that has been expressed. I apologise unreservedly for what happened. In hindsight I wish, of course, that the dog had been on a lead but at the time that did not seem necessary.
“I am hugely grateful to all those who helped at the scene. They were heroic. I left for my own safety and that of my dog, believing that there was nothing that I could do to help as the seal was being looked after by a vet and help had been called. I offered my contact details to the vet before leaving.”
Sir Craig Oliver, the former director of politics and communications for David Cameron, lives locally. After the incident he tweeted: “So sad to hear that the beautiful seal that took up residence near Hammersmith Bridge had to be put down after being savaged by a dog.”
Martin Garside, from the Port of London Authority, said there was “a growing problem” of dog attacks on swans, geese and other wildlife although the RSPCA says it had not had any reports one an increase in the number of dog attacks on seals.
A spokesperson for the BDMLR said it received “hundreds of calls per month” from members of the public who were concerned about seals, but it was impossible to know how many of the injuries had been caused by dogs.
Lawyers for Ms Sabben-Clare have said both the RSPCA and police had told her no offence had been committed.
Police earlier confirmed said that officers are were investigating the incident.
A spokesman for the Met said: "Police are investigating the death of a seal after it was injured by a dog on the River Thames near Hammersmith Bridge.
"Officers attended the location at approximately 12:39 hours on Sunday 21 March along with colleagues from the London Fire Brigade.
"They recovered the young pup from the river bank and it was taken to a rescue centre for treatment, but had to be put down later, due to injuries sustained in the incident.