QC whose dog mauled Freddie the Seal apologises for 'terrible accident' and says she regrets dog not being on lead

THE Oxford-educated lawyer whose dog mauled Freddie the Seal to death has today apologised for the “terrible accident”. 

Rebecca Sabben-Clare, 49, said she regretted not putting the dog on a lead after it attacked Freddie near Hammersmith Bridge, West London, on Sunday.

Shocking pictures showed the cross-breed latched on to the seal’s flipper as walkers and cyclists, including a vet, rushed to his aid on the banks of the River Thames. 

Freddie the seal, named after Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, was put down on Monday a day after the lunchtime attack.

MS Sabben-Clare told the Evening Standard: “I am heartbroken by this terrible accident.

“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. 

“I left for my own safety and that of my dog, believing that there was nothing that I could do to help as the seal was being looked after by a vet and help had been called. I offered my contact details to the vet before leaving.”

Ms Sabben-Clare also stressed she had made contact with the police after the incident, who had directed her to the RSPCA.

She added: "The RSPCA interviewed me and confirmed that they were happy that no offence had been committed.

"I tried to contact the police again repeatedly yesterday afternoon, in response to a statement from them that they wished to identify me and speak to me. 

"They have still not been in contact."

I am heartbroken by this terrible accident

Ms Sabben-Clare said she has made a donation to the Wildlife Hospital which treated the seal, and praised them for their "wonderful" work.

Her apology comes after the RSCPA said today it can only investigate offences under the Animal Welfare Act, which involves cruelty to animals. 

They stressed the police must investigate offences involving dangerous dogs – though the Metropolitan Police today confirmed they would not be launching a probe.


The RSPCA said: “We are deeply saddened by what happened to Freddie and this highlights why it is important to keep dogs on leads around wild animals.

“We investigate animal welfare offences. Dog attacks on animals would become an animal welfare offence if it was done deliberately. 

“If no offences have been committed under the Animal Welfare Act we are unable to take incidents further. Offences involving dogs out of control are investigated by the police.”

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, told The Sun today that the QC's dog was called Toby and was "not aggressive".

They said: "I don’t think the dog is a cross, it's a breed but I don’t know what breed he is. 

“He’s not an aggressive dog, he hasn't had any history of it and he’s super sweet with our dogs. 

“He’s been super sweet it’s a shame. I think she is a nice person, it could have happened to anybody.”

Another, who also asked not to be named, added: “They’ve been away for most of the time and just come back because the house has been nearly finished. 

“The only thing I would say is is that she’s a f****** idiot to be taking dogs out not on a lead around places like that. 

“Dogs in general, because you see people with dogs near playgrounds without leads on and it's stupid. 

“It’s not worth the risk, so if she was I think the should probably get fined. 

“Everybody feels sorry for the seal.”

The Met Police said today: "Following the investigation there will be no further criminal investigation or action taken by police in regards to this matter. The owner of the dog has been informed."

The owner of a dog who attacks farm animals can be fined up to £1,000, rising to £2,500 if the offence is deliberate. 

Similar fines apply to attacks on wild animals – but offences related to hunting can see penalties of up to £5,000 imposed. 

A dog is considered ‘dangerously out of control’ if it injures someone or there are grounds to fear it will injure someone. 

Freddie earned the affectionate nickname after entertaining walkers on the bank of the Thames for weeks.

The law on dog attacks

It is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control, and owners could get an unlimited fine or be jailed for up to six months.

  • Owners must not allow their dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place, a private place (such as a garden or neighbour's house) or in the owner's home.
  • A dog is considered seriously out of control if it injures someone or makes them worried that they could be injured.
  • A court may decide a dog is out of control if it attacks someone's animal.

And locals reacted furiously after his killing, with one writing: "#freddietheseal people who own dogs that attack people/wildlife should be banned from owning pets for life, first a dear in Richmond park, now a poor seal in Hammersmith, when will it stop?

"When a child dies? Will they just fine the owner and move on? This needs to be fixed.”

Craig Oliver, David Cameron's former director of communications, wrote: "So sad to hear that the beautiful seal that took up residence near Hammersmith Bridge had to be put down after being savaged by a dog.

"There were signs up asking dog walkers to keep them on leads." 

Ms Sabben-Clare studied at New College Oxford and was named a leading English silk in the 2021 Legal 500 Directory. 

She is now a specialist in commercial law who is described as "incredibly bright" and "very talented".

Ms Sabben-Clare was said to be “distraught and distressed” as she attempted to pull her dog away from the seal during the attack, The Times reports.

A witness added: “I think she was very upset. She was trying to pull the dog off but this dog wasn’t letting go."

A neighbour told The Sun today that the QC's dog was called Toby, adding: "I don’t think the dog is a cross, it's a breed but I don’t know what breed he is. 

“He’s not an aggressive dog, he hasn't had any history of it and he’s super sweet with our dogs. 

“He’s been super sweet it’s a shame. I think she is a nice person, it could have happened to anybody.”

British Divers Marine Life Rescue said last night: "We are all devastated at the loss of ‘Freddie’ today.

"So many people tried to help him but his injuries were too severe.

"Marine mammal experts were consulted but all ended with the same conclusion, he was put to sleep late this afternoon."

A photographer who was taking pictures of Freddie when the attack happened said it was “vicious”.

Duncan Phillips, 55, told MyLondon: “The dog just wouldn't let go.

"It wouldn't let go despite repeated attempts by members of the public to separate the animals.”

The vet who came to the seal's aid was bitten three times by terrified Freddie while trying to hold him.

A male cyclist was “headbutted” by the seal as he tried to hold him still.

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