A former Oxford don and businessman has died after being trampled to death by cows while out walking.

Brian Bellhouse


Brian Bellhouse and his son-in-law invented a system that used compressed gas to delivered vaccines without piercing the skin

Brian Bellhouse, 80, who became a multimillionaire overnight after inventing a device to provide injection-free vaccines, was strolling by himself in fields around Guestling, East Sussex, at about 11am on Monday when a herd of cattle became agitated and charged.

Another walker heard screams from the field, which is close to the Grade I listed parish church of St Laurence, and called the emergency services. An air ambulance was scrambled and paramedics gave CPR but Professor Bellhouse was declared dead at 11.46am.

The cow attack was at least the third resulting in serious injuries this month. A report by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that 74 people were killed by cows between 2000 and 2015.

Farmers were advised that 70 per cent of deaths involved a bull or newly calved cow. “Activities with these stock should be carefully planned,” the report said. “Wherever possible farmers should avoid keeping cows and calves in fields with public footpaths.”

Professor Bellhouse, who studied as an undergraduate at Magdalen College before becoming a fellow, lived in Winchelsea, five miles from where he died. He was father-in-law to the Labour peer and donor Lord Drayson.

The two men founded PowderJect, a system that delivers powered vaccines at high speeds using compressed gas.

It protected patients from infection by eliminating the need to pierce the skin. In 1997, four years after it was founded, PowderJect was floated on the stock market for £50 million.

Lord Drayson, 57, married Professor Bellhouse’s daughter, Elspeth, after meeting her in a laboratory at Oxford University in 1993. Lord Drayson’s status as a Labour donor meant PowderJect faced controversy for winning a British government contract in 2002 to deliver smallpox vaccines during the post-9/11 biological weapons scare.

The National Audit Office and Commons public accounts committee found no wrongdoing. The company was sold to the US pharmaceutical giant Chiron in 2003 for £542 million. The deal is understood to have made Professor Bellhouse and Lord Drayson £100 million.

A spokesman for Magdalen College said: “Brian co-founded PowderJect in 1993, which became one of the first companies to be spun out successfully from the University of Oxford.

“Brian was a major donor to the college and endowed the Oxford- Bellhouse Graduate Scholarship at Magdalen in biomedical engineering.”

Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

This month armed police were called to Littleborough, Greater Manchester, after a woman in her mid-fifties was injured by a “stampede” of cattle, suffering severe trauma to her arm and shoulder.

“The cows have all got calves and she was stamped on and attacked,” a passer-by told the Manchester Evening News. “If not for the actions of local people out walking, she would have been killed.”

Also this month, on the Isle of Wight, Saffron Anderson, 44, was trampled and thrown into the air by a cow that she encountered on a footpath while walking her dog. The pet, Betsy, managed to scare the cow away.


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