TRIBUTES have been paid to the farmer who was found dead after an animal rights group claimed pigs were mistreated at his farm.
The inquest on Stephen Brown, 52, who was found dead at Harling Farm, East Harling last Wednesday has been formally opened. It heard he died of shotgun wounds to his head, but the death was not suspicious.
The Norfolk coroner heard on Friday that Mr Brown was last seen by his father Michael at 5.45am that day.
When his father returned, his son’s vehicle had gone and, concerned for his son’s welfare, he and friends began a search. Mr Brown was found beside his vehicle on a track beside Quidenham Road, East Harling. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The inquest has been adjourned.
Friend of the family Denise Aldous said: “[He was] a dearly cherished, proud and loving son, father, husband, uncle and friend. Stephen was a genuine, honest, sensitive, warm-hearted and caring man. He was an inspiration. He will be sorely missed.”
Born in East Harling, he was the only son of Michael and the late Jean Brown, and had a sister Sally. He was the fourth generation to farm at Harling and was married with daughters, Megan and Georgia.
Breckland Council leader William Nunn, who farms at North Lopham, knew him for 25 years and said: “It’s a terrible thing for his family. I think he was really shocked by the pig thing because he was a soft-hearted, caring farmer.”
“He put trust in the people he employed to do a good job. If he saw anything like that [cruelty], he would have sacked those responsible.”
Kenninghall farmer Bob Gooderham said: “He looked after pigs all his life, sold them to slaughter and inspectors had never found fault.”
The RSPCA is examining video and photographs taken by an undercover agent for Animal Equity which allegedly showed pigs being abused.
A private funeral service for family and close friends will be held on Friday March 2 at West Suffolk Crematorium at 11.15am, followed by a memorial service at St Peter and St Paul Church, East Harling at 2pm.