THE family of a zoo keeper killed by a tiger say they have drawn encouragement from the completion of the investigation into her death.

Following a protracted probe into the death of Sarah McClay at South Lakes Safari Zoo in May 2013, Barrow Borough Council this week revealed it is prosecuting the Dalton attraction and its boss, David Gill, over alleged health and safety breaches. 

The 24-year-old suffered fatal injuries as a result of being attacked by a Sumatran tiger named Padang. 

A four-day inquest held last year concluded Miss McClay was pounced on while working in the keeper’s corridor of the tiger house – an area the tigers should never have reached. 

With questions still remaining following that fact-finding exercise in September, Miss McClay’s partner, David Shaw, mum Fiona McClay, and brother Stephen said they would keenly await the outcome of the council's investigation. 

Following Monday's announcement that the probe had finally been completed, Mr McClay, a former Dowdales School pupil like Sarah, said: "Although it has lasted more than two years, we are obviously pleased the investigation is now complete. 

"We cannot really say we are happy; discovering evidence to suggest that any workplace allegedly has safety failings is nothing to be happy about. 

"It would be more accurate to say we are happy there has been some progress." 

Mr McClay, who works in London, will be in Cumbria with his mum on Tuesday to present the Sarah McClay Memorial Award that the University of Cumbria has created in her honour.

Despite the family's pride, Mr McClay, 29, said it was a particularly sad time, as Sarah would have become an auntie this summer, as he and wife Tess are expecting their first child. 

He added: "As a family, as well as being devastated at Sarah no longer being with us, we have also spent the past two years very upset at how initial, unsubstantiated accusations that Sarah caused her own death were taken by many as fact, simply because of how quickly they appeared in the media. 

"Although these accusations have been weakened by information that has come to light since the incident, hopefully now this prosecution will eventually prove even more definitively that the points listed in the report are why Sarah died - not because of anything she did wrong. 

"We must now look forward to the court date, after which we can comment further, because just as we said two years ago, it is unwise for anyone involved to voice personal opinions until all legal proceedings are finally completed.” 

The initial court date has been listed as August 27 at Furness Magistrates' Court. The zoo has indicated it does not wish to comment.