An Italian farm worker is being quizzed by police over the murder of a ‘wonderful’ animal-loving volunteer whose body was found in a bull pen.
Katherine Bevan, 53, a veterinary pharmacist and author, was found on January 3 at an Arabian horse farm in a Devon beauty spot once described by Prince Charles as his ‘ideal English village’.
Her death was initially believed to have been an accident and was reported to the Health and Safety Executive.
But after a post-mortem examination at the weekend, police launched a murder inquiry and arrested a 26-year-old man.
Katherine Bevan, 53, a veterinary pharmacist and author, was found on January 3 in a bull pen in Gittisham, Devon
Ms Bevan’s (pictured) death was initially believed to have been an accident and was reported to the Health and Safety Executive
Mrs Bevan began volunteering at Combe Farm in Gittisham five years ago, and recently released a book called Knowing Daisy: A True Story, which chronicles her relationship with calves Daisy and Dandelion, which were both rescued and taken to the farm.
Mrs Bevan wrote affectionately about her time on the farm, saying: ‘The farm is part of a larger estate and is set in what must be the most beautiful location I have ever found.
‘A long track leads you to a world of old charm. Some 280 acres of rolling countryside surrounds the old farmhouse.
‘Steep hills and valleys, with pockets of woodland and natural waterways are just some of the wonders to explore.’
After a post-mortem examination at the weekend, police launched a murder inquiry and arrested a 26-year-old man. Pictured: Ms Bevan with a cow
It was initially feared Mrs Bevan had been crushed in a tragic accident while tending to Jumbo the bull in a stock pen.
In her book, she described Jumbo as ‘good natured’ but with the potential to be ‘deadly dangerous’.
Last night Mrs Bevan’s estranged husband, Michael, said: ‘She was marvellous – a wonderful person. She was so dedicated to everything she did and she was loved by everyone.’
Mrs Bevan worked as a veterinary pharmacist for the Vale Veterinary Group as well as volunteering on the farm. She previously had a job as a marketing manager for jewellers F Hinds. Michael Harris, who runs Combe Farm, described Mrs Bevan as a ‘lovely, wonderful person’.
Ms Bevan had been excited about publishing her first book just before Christmas. She worked as a veterinary pharmacist for the Vale Veterinary Group as well as volunteering on the farm
He added: ‘It is just awful. Kate has been a friend and helping up here for the last five years.
‘And she started living here about a year ago. She was part of our family and she sat with us for dinner every night.
‘She was a very special and dear person. She was the last person in the world who anyone could do this to. She was amazing and gentle. It is utterly awful.
‘She helped with one bull and the cattle and the horses. She had a passion for cattle.’
The book, ‘Knowing Daisy’, focuses on the relationship she shared with Daisy, a cow she met four years ago when it was just a few days old
Mr Harris said the arrest of the young Italian man – who is one of the live-in volunteers and backpackers who work at the farm – was ‘a complete shock’.
He said: ‘There was nothing about the arrested man that ever suggested he was a danger to anyone. I would hate to think that I had taken in anyone like that.
‘His English is not very good but good enough for the farm. We have volunteers come here from all over the world.’
Mr Harris added: ‘Her body was found in the bull pen. But that does not mean she died in the bull pen. I did always feel there was something odd about that explanation.
The murder has rocked the village of Gittisham, in Devon (pictured)
‘Jumbo was as quiet as a lamb. He has never caused any trouble to any of my workers although of course bulls can act in unpredictable ways.
‘Kate knew how to handle herself around the farm. She was no fool. She was well aware of the need to follow safety procedures. There is still a lot we don’t know.’
Matt Foad, who runs the Vale Veterinary Group, said: ‘Kate worked tirelessly to help make the Vale the place that it is, and her efforts have helped provide a better service to all of our clients. Her passing has shocked us all.’
Gittisham has chocolate-box thatched stone cottages with a stream running through the centre. Yesterday the St George’s Cross flew at half-mast at the village church.
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: ‘A 26-year-old local man has been arrested on suspicion of murder. He remains in police custody.
‘Anyone who feels they have information that could assist the investigation is urged to contact Devon and Cornwall Police.’
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive added: ‘This is a joint police/HSE investigation. At the moment the police have primacy of the investigation, and so we are not able to comment at this time.’
Katherine Bevan was found dead at Combe Farm Arabians in Gittisham, near Honiton in East Devon