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Woman tells court of terror attack by swooping seagull

A WOMAN told a court today of a terror attack ... by a swooping gull.

Project officer Cathie Kelly, 59, described how she was hurt as she tried to make it back to the safety of her office.

She is suing the owners of the building - an old Victorian school in Greenock - claiming they did not take sufficient care for her safety.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh heard how a nearby rubbish dump was a magnet for gulls which nested on the roof of the old school and became aggressive when they had chicks.

Judge Paul Arthurson QC has heard of dashes in and out of the Pottery Street building using umbrellas and how garages in the vicinity fly helium balloons to protect their cars from droppings.

Previously there had been patrols using owls and hawks to try to get rid of the menace - but these had stopped, claims Mrs Kelly of 143 Hayburn Lane, Glasgow.

She told how she stopped for lunch on June 17 2010 and planned to head for a nearby burger van to buy something to eat.

She said it was impossible to see through the stained glass of the door as she went outside.

"I walked out the door and I barely got to the bottom of the steps and this gull came for me at full speed, wings outstretched, coming right for my face."

She said she had no food at the time and wondered why the squawking gull was attacking her.

"I realized I would never get to the van so I had to get back into the building for safety."

Mrs Kelly continued: "It was screaming at me. I was terrified. I thought it was going for my face.

"I couldn't look up to see it because it was right over my head and I really thought it was going to hurt me.

"I was shouting but it would not go away."

The court heard how crouching Mrs Kelly, wearing a pair of flat black loafers, turned as she tried to regain the safety of the building but her left shoe came off and she stumbled onto the steps.

"I was badly winded and I was in instant pain. It was very painful."

Later that afternoon someone noticed her crying and gave her a paracetamol but she was still in pain and had to go home early.

Her daughter took her to hospital that evening.

Court papers describe how the incident left Mrs Kelly "shaken and distressed." She was away from her work with CVS Inverclyde for two weeks then took to carrying an umbrella to protect her as she made her way too and from her office.

Pains in her chest and thigh made sitting at a computer difficult and her husband and daughter had to step in to help with shopping, cooking and other household tasks.

For weeks she could only sleep upright and with the help of painkillers.

Mrs Kelly said that towers beside the door were a favourite nesting site for gulls. Discussing the incident with colleagues, she learned that a chick had fallen from the nest on the day she was attacked.

The paperwork she has submitted to the court asserts: "Urban colonies of nesting gulls were a well-recognised phenomena in the vicinity of the building and the landfill site.

"Gulls consume a highly variable diet and they are predators, scavengers and kleptoparasitic in nature."

Nesting gulls tend to be aggressive in response to predators and intruders and present "a serious risk of injury to people moving within their vicinity," claim her legal team.

Mrs Ann Walsh, manager with Enterprise Childcare, who also works in the Ladyburn business centre, said the gull problem had been going on for years.

"I was attacked myself by gulls," she said. "I was pooed on as part of the attack."

Mrs Walsh, 45, continued: "I had to bring a brolly to work in spring and summer time and when they were particularly bad I had the brolly up."

She said she was angry and had raised her concern with the building's management.

"You shouldn't have to be dodging seagulls when you come to work in the morning."

Landlords Riverside Inverclyde (Property Holdings) who deny liability.

They are part of an organisation set up by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Inverclyde Council.

They claim Mrs Kelly was at least partly to blame because she did not look where she was putting her feet.

If Mrs Kelly proves that the building owners were entirely at fault, it has been agreed that she stands to receive pounds 7000 damages.

The hearing continues.

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