04/05/2012 11:03 BST | Updated 05/05/2012 08:35 BST

Cheetah Attack: British Woman Mauled By Big Cat In South Africa Game Reserve (Pictures)

A British woman was lucky to escape with her life after being mauled by a cheetah at the Kragga Kamma game reserve in South Africa.

Violet D'Mello, from Aberdeen, had been visiting the reserve with her husband Archie, 64, as they took a month-long holiday to celebrate her 60th birthday.


Mrs D'Mello before the attack

The attack happened in an enclosure where people are encouraged to enter and pet the captive cheetahs.

Mr D'Mello said: "We arrived at the game reserve and there was an enclosure with two cheetahs inside.

"There was a sign up saying that you could take a tour of the enclosure with a guide and stroke the cats."


Mrs D'Mello tries to escape as blood pours from her head

Upon entering the pen, the couple were told by a reserve guide that the big cats could be agitated this time of day. They walked away from the cheetahs but as they did so one of them jumped on a little girl who was also in the enclosure with her family.

As they turned to see what was happening, Mrs D'Mello was attacked by two others.

Mr D'Mello, who had to stand by helplessly said: "It was totally frantic and terrifying, a real melee.

"Violet was on the ground and the animal kept biting her head and thighs.

"The other cheetah came over too and was scratching at her.

"I couldn't do anything and the guide didn't even have a stick to defend herself."


The cheetahs continue to attack

Mrs D'Mello suffered wounds on her head, stomach and legs and was rushed to hospital. She narrowly escaped being blinded as one gash was close to her right eye.

Mr D'Mello said: "We're very angry about what happened because we were told the situation was safe and it obviously wasn't.

"The park said they didn't know what had caused the cheetahs to attack but they shouldn't let tourists in unless they're sure it is safe."

The reserve has reportedly been closed as an investigation into the incident takes place.