Chipperfield's Circus is being sued for more than £100,000 by a former employee whose arm was bitten off by a Bengal tiger.

Nigel Wesson, 39, has issued a writ demanding compensation from Chipperfield Enterprises, the company behind the world-famous circus, which has its base near Chipping Norton.

Mr Wesson's injury was inflicted 14 months ago at the circus training centre at Heythrop, near Chipping Norton.

He had been working at the site for just a few weeks when he tried to open a gate by pushing his arm through the bars instead of using a metal bar provided. Rajah, a 25-stone tiger, seized him and within seconds had chewed off his left forearm. Mr Wesson was saved by onlookers who stemmed the flow of blood.

When paramedics arrived and asked him if he had any allergies he jokingly told them: "Only tigers."

Mr Wesson has decided his own recklessness was not the sole cause of the accident. His lawyers are claiming Chipperfield Enterprises was negligent and in breach of its statutory duty. Mr Wesson's father David, 66, said: "It's true Nigel was foolish but Chipperfield's should have provided a fool-proof system. Nigel was told how to handle the tigers by another employee who did not habitually use the metal bar himself.

"This employee, who has since left Chipperfield's, gave Nigel the wrong example to follow."

Graham Chipperfield, who runs Chipperfield Enterprises, said: "This was a truly terrible accident but, in truth, he's lucky he only lost his arm.

"After the accident he admitted it was completely his fault. This is really a matter of common sense."

Story date: Tuesday 04 May

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