THE CHAIRMAN of estate agent chain Chancellors was trampled to death by his own horses after taking them out for a carriage driving exercise, an inquest heard today.

James Scott-Lee had been on a 'tremendous' seven mile ride with two of his horses and his horseman, Kevin Merry and the horseman's wife, Beverley on October 27 last year.

As the 66-year-old Chancellors chairman returned to his five stables at his Park House estate in Kirtlington, the horses became suddenly startled and kicked him to the ground before trampling on him.

A coroner heard that Mr Scott-Lee was then crushed by all four wheels of the carriage when it ran over him as he lay stricken on the ground.

In a joint statement, Mr Merry and his nurse wife told the inquest that when they arrived back to the stables the horses had been so well behaved that James had suggested going for another ride two days later.

“James got off the back and walked to one side to stand in front of one horse and Beverley stood on the other side, to create a wall for the horses to stop them moving any further,” the statement said.

“Kevin got off the carriage and detached the horses from the rear and walked around to the front. As he was doing this, James’ horse started to fidget and then reared up. James pulled it back down using the reigns. This unsettled my [Beverley’s] horse and I sensed the situation was starting to escalate and there was a risk the horses would bolt.

“I told James to get out of the way but he didn’t move. The horses lunged forward, knocking James to the ground. He was lying on his side in front of both horses, at which point they walked over him still attached to the carriage and drove over James’s body.”

Mrs Merry rushed to the aid of the father-of-one, who was still conscious but at first complained he could not feel his legs.

Paramedics were called and Mr Scott-Lee was taken by ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he complained of pain in his shoulder and back and tingling in his hands.

The coroner heard that scans only revealed he had multiple fractured ribs and despite doctors deeming his condition not to be life-threatening, they said he should be kept in hospital for 24 hours for observation.

However, by the afternoon his condition had deteriorated rapidly and he was transferred to intensive care where further scans showed he had a broken vertebrae.

He was assessed again later by doctors who found his right pupil was unresponsive and that he had suffered a stroke.

Mr Scott-Lee was rushed to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London where doctors told his wife Jill and his son that he had suffered extensive brain damage and they were unable to operate.

He died the following day, on October 28.

Doctors declared he had died as a result of posterior circulation stroke traumatic right vertebral artery dissection.

Giving evidence to the inquest in Oxford, Mr Merry, who had driven the horses, said James had kept five horses at his stables and it was his “dream” to be a horse and carriage driver.

He told the inquest it was the first time the two horses had ridden together and the drive had been “tremendous."

“James and I had done this with more experienced horses in the past with just the two of us, which is normal,” he said.

“I had asked Beverley to come along purely because was the first time. Normally James and I would do this ourselves.”

He told Oxfordshire Coroner Darren Salter that he did not know why the horses became “fidgety” but added that when they did “you’re meant to let go and get out of it."

“Horses are very strong and powerful, you couldn’t stop them, you just have to let go,” he said.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, Mr Salter said: “I think I can certainly come to a conclusion from the evidence heard. There was a possible plan to undergo brain surgery but an MRI scan deemed it wasn’t to be something that could be carried out because of the damage that had already been done to Mr Scott-Lee’s brain.

“The evidence is that not only did the horses trample him but also the wheels of the carriage went over him, causing the various injuries referred to.

"The initial assessment was his injuries were not life-threatening. What wasn’t known by the treating medics at the John Radcliffe was that there was a traumatic right vertebrae dissection. It is not known if that is something that occurred at the time of the incident or developed later.”

Mr Scott-Lee’s family were not present in court.