January 24, 2022

Lawyer whose dog violently mauled Freddie Mercury the seal will not face criminal action

A lawyer whose dog mauled a seal called Freddie Mercury leaving him with fatal injuries will not face criminal action, police have confirmed.

Barrister Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC, 49, was identified as the person seen running towards the scene as a passer-by tried to drag Toby the dog away from the seal.

Freddie regularly entertained walkers while sunbathing near Hammersmith Bridge in Barnes, south west London.

Ms Sabben-Clare has said she wanted to “apologise unreservedly” for the “terrible accident” and wished her unleashed pet had been on a lead to prevent the fatal mauling of the seal on the banks of the River Thames on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told the Mirror: “Police have investigated the death of a seal after it was injured by a dog on the River Thames near Hammersmith Bridge.

Distressing images showed the dog maul the seal in London
Distressing images showed the dog maul the seal in London

“Officers attended the location at approximately 12.39pm on Sunday March 21 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.

“Following the investigation there will be no further criminal investigation or criminal action taken by police in regards to this matter.

“The owner of the dog has been informed.”

Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC
Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC apologised after the incident

Police investigated the incident after Freddie's death
Police investigated the incident after Freddie’s death

Freddie had to be put down by vets at a wildlife hospital after suffering a broken flipper that meant he could not be released back into the wild.

Speaking to The Evening Standard, Ms Sabben-Clare said: “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.”

The seal, known to some as Freddie, was taken to the South Essex Wildlife hospital.
The owner said in hindsight she wished the dog was on a lead

The animal welfare charity, Blue Cross, which helps educate the public in the responsibilities of animal ownership also released a statement on the incident.

Ryan Neile, Head of Behaviour told MyLondon the team were “deeply saddened to hear about the passing of a beautiful animal like Freddie the seal.”

He added: “Regardless of age and size, all dogs are predatory animals, and although over the years we’ve bred them for different purposes, many retain strong instincts to chase and hunt prey animals.

Sadly, Freddie Mercury had to be put down
Sadly, Freddie Mercury had to be put down

Tributes to Freddie the seal left at the scene
Tributes to Freddie the seal left at the scene

“Those specifically bred for hunting will tend to have stronger instincts than other breeds, however all dogs have the potential to carry out these behaviours unless carefully socialised and appropriately trained.

“As dog owners our responsibility to ensure our dogs are kept under control at all times (on and off lead) must be taken seriously, particularly in areas where there is wildlife.

“Always seek help from qualified reward-based trainers to resolve any issues you are having with your dog.”