Rosa King had always loved animals and had achieved her dream of working with some of the world’s rarest creatures.
The 33-year old zoo keeper worked with carnivores at Hamerton Zoo in Cambridgeshire and adored every single one of the animals under her care.
She formed close bonds with the animals and was devastated when several Big Cats died due to old age or illness.
Her close friend, Tracey Eyre, explained how Rosa had been heartbroken when Blizzard, a tiger, died from old age.
The 48-year-old explained: “Rosa knew she was dealing with dangerous animals, she knew they were wild.
“She said Blizzard often looked at her as if to say ‘you’re going to be my next meal if I get the chance’.
“Because of that she was vigilant all the time and meticulous in everything she did. She adored those tigers, they were like family to her, they were her little babies.
“She was aware of the dangers and took every precaution.”
Rosa was just two years old when it became apparent that her future lay in the care of animals.
Her mum, Andrea, said: “She followed her dreams and it wasn’t very often you wouldn’t see her with a smile on her face.”
But on May 29, 2017, Rosa’s mutilated body was found inside the tiger enclosure after a visitor to the zoo saw her and raised the alarm.
Rosa had gone into the tiger enclosure to clear the viewing windows so members of the public could see the majestic beasts more clearly.
She hadn’t realised a metal slide, which was supposed to isolate the animals from humans working inside, had been left open.
Rosa suffered horrifying injuries, including a several spinal fractures, and huge scratches to her arms, shoulders and right leg.
After she had been killed, the tiger had dragged her body to the window in the viewing platform, which is where the visitor saw her.
There were no witnesses to the gruesome attack. Police called to the scene described the horrifying scene they faced when they arrived at the zoo.
A police scene of crime investigator, Nathan Searle, saw a huge bloodstain on the floor, next to a set of keys and a chilling blood-stained paw print.
The cloth and bucket Rosa had been using to clean the windows were also next to her mutilated body.
Fellow workers were seen trying to tempt the beast away from her body using meat.
One witness, Pete Davis, said: “You could obviously see the keepers were all distressed and, you know, not really knowing what to do, heads in their hands.
“A couple of them were throwing meat over the enclosure to try and entice the tiger away.”
Hamerton Zoo head keeper, Katherine Adams, believes Rosa, who was working on her own, was trying to leave the enclosure when she was attacked.
Katherine believes the tiger who delivered the fatal mauling could have been stalking Rosa from the second she entered the enclosure, which was up to five minutes before she was attacked.
An inquest into Rosa’s death recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Nicholas Moss, Cambridgeshire’s assistant coroner, said the metal vertical slide, designed to keep the the tigers apart from humans, was clearly open straight after the attack.
A metal gate to stop the public entering a service area next to the enclosure was also open.
Hamerton Zoo insisted it had a strict procedure where keepers were expected to make sure they knew exactly where the tigers were at all times and ensure they had been isolated by the metal slides before they stepped into any enclosure.
Mr Moss said: “The death in this case occurred despite the fact there was a simple system and keepers such as Rosa who were safety conscious knew what the system was and knew what the risk was.
“While it was unexpected for Rosa not to follow that system it seemed to be due to human error, of which we are all prey.”
The inquest also heard Rosa could have been extremely tired at the time of her death. During the summer months she had been working regular 45 hours weeks and had been helping feed a serval kitten throughout the nights.
Colleagues had described Rosa as a “very safe keeper”, who took every precaution and knew the risks of her job.
Rosa was also said to be passionate that tigers shouldn’t be punished for acts of violence when they were in captivity.
Her friend Tracey said: “Rosa basically said ‘all keepers know the risks’. She wouldn’t want the tiger to be destroyed, I know for a fact she wouldn’t.”
Friend Tracey’s husband, Steve, added: “She said it wasn’t fair for anything to happen to the tiger, because its not the tiger’s fault.”
At the time of her death Rosa was caring for Malayan tigers Cicip, eight, and Sahaja, four, and white tigers Mohan and Shiva, who are siblings.