A former handler who worked with Siegfried & Roy for years and was working on the night that Roy Horn was attacked and nearly killed by one of his animals is sharing his version of what happened that night.
Chris Lawrence spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the attack that left Horn paralyzed, and claimed that it was what happened in the months and years prior that caused Mantacore to maul his handler.
‘Many of the handlers thought that Roy was treating the cats more like props than he was respecting them for who they were,’ said Lawrence, noting that Horn was feeding and walking far less frequently over the years.
‘That can only work as long as there are no variables, which is impossible considering that you’re dealing with a living, thinking animal. I am positive that Roy’s diminishing relationship with Mantacore was a key factor in the attack.’
The ailurophiles would later claim that the 7ft male tiger, who weighed 400lbs, was trying to protect Horn after he suffered a stroke, but Lawrence and a number of eyewitness reports obtained by DailyMail.com tell an far different story.
Those eyewitness reports also contradict a large portion of Lawrence’s version of events, specifically where he was at the time of the attack.
The most concise recounting of what transpired that evening may have come from the spotlight operator who told investigators: ‘It appeared that his only intention was to kill Roy.’
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Cats: Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy (pair above in march 2002) has long claimed that he suffered a stroke on the night of October 3, 2003 and his tiger Mantacore tried to protect him
Tiger: Chris Lawrence, a handler for the pair who was present that night, said that the tiger attacked Horn because the handler had lost respect for his animals
Account: ‘It appeared that his only intention was to kill Roy,’ said one eyewitness
Lawrence said that as soon as Mantacore entered the stage on October 3, 2003 it was clear that things were not right with the tiger.
Both Lawrence and almost every eyewitness who worked on the show are in agreement that Mantacore wandered of his mark at the very top of the segment, which was called The Rapport.
‘Mantacore was automatic during The Rapport,’ explained Lawrence.
‘This was uncharted waters.’
Then, Horn decided to maneuver the tiger into position using a move that had not been rehearsed with the highly-trained tiger.
‘What Roy did was, instead of walking Mantacore in a circle, as is usually done, he just used his arm to steer him right back into his body, in a pirouette motion,’ said Lawrence.
‘Mantacore’s face was right in [Horn’s] midsection. By Roy not following the correct procedure, it fed into confusion and rebellion.’
Then, Horn asked the tiger if he wanted to say hello to the audience, at which point Mantacore snarled and bit at Horn’s sleeve.
Horn chided the tiger and gently hit it on the nose with his microphone a few times.
Lawrence still did not get on stage however, saying that his bosses discouraged handlers from appearing during the act because it would kill the illusion.
‘I had been yelled at by Siegfried on a few occasions. His favorite phrase was, “Are you trying to ruin me?” He would later apologize and explain that, because he and Roy were on the marquee, they couldn’t make mistakes onstage,’ said Lawrence.
Horn in particular did not take well to handlers showing up to offer assistance according to Lawrence.
‘They went to a great length to hide the fact that we actually existed to preserve the perception that Roy “trained’ all of the animals himself,” explained Lawrence.
What happened at this point is still unclear, but most of the eyewitness reports viewed by DailyMail.com claim that Horn fell, kicked at the tiger and then was mauled by the animal.
Mantacore ripped open Horn’s neck and then walked off stage with his victim still in his mouth.
Those eyewitnesses all say that once backstage, Mantacore eventually released Horn after a handler pried open his mouth, with some stating an extinguisher was used to cause this to happen and others claiming that it was definitely not used out of fear it would scare the tiger and lead to worse injury.
Lawrence’s location and actions at the near-fatal moment are not backed up by any of the over 20 eyewitness accounts seen by DailyMail.com and included in the 2004 report filed by the USDA.
Primary colors: ‘Many of the handlers thought that Roy was treating the cats more like props than he was respecting them for who they were,’ said Lawrence
Kiss: Lawrenc claims he was holding the tiger’s leash when Mantacore attacked and was bucked of its back onto the stage, but no eyewitness supports that
Spoof: A month after the attack, Alec Baldwin (above) spoofed the incident on SNL
He said that he began to walk at an even pacer to the stage when he saw how Mantacore was looking at Horn, then crouched behind the tiger and began patting his hindquarters.
At the same time, Lawrence also claims that he emptied his pocket of some cube steak.
This could have possibly been done in a way that hid Lawrence from the audience, but what happened next would have made it hard to miss the fact that a handler was on stage.
Lawrence said that he grabbed Mantacore’s leash and at that very moment, the tiger pounced on Horn.
The sudden jolt caused Lawrence to buck off the tiger’s back and onto the stage he said, something that it not noted in any eyewitness report.
‘I vividly remember thinking, “Here he comes,” and I experienced all of the things that you hear about prior to your death,’ said Lawrence.
‘It was very deceiving because it could’ve only lasted a few seconds but it seemed like an eternity. I remember experiencing a crippling guilt over the thought that I was going to be leaving my children without a father and cause them unimaginable pain that they were too young to understand.’
The eyewitness reports do state that as the mauling began handlers began to run onto the stage and then followed Mantacore, and securing the release of Horn.
A number of those reports describe how this happened in a manner very similar to what Lawrence said in his interviews, having also appeared on Today one day after his THR feature.
Lawrence straddled the lion while at the same time another handler hooked into the animal’s mouth, at which point Horn was dropped and dragged away from the animal.
Pets: Horn was left with partial paralysis on the left side of his body and is confined to a wheelchair most of the time
No decision: The USDA report was ultimately inconclusive as to what happened that night
Mantacore then headed off to his cage for his dinner said Lawrence.
Horn eventually recovered but to this day is confined to a wheelchair most of the time, and suffered partial paralysis on the left side of his body.
And the show would not go on.
Siegfried Fischbacher informed the audience 15 minutes after the attack that the show that evening was cancelled, and the two men would never again perform their act at The Mirage.
What happened next was even more surprising as Horn insisted that no harm come of Mantacore, and began telling reporters that he had suffered a stroke on stage and that the tiger was acting as his protector.
Exchanges prior to this between the pair’s legal team and investigators from the USDA also show a growing frustration with the probe into what happened on that night of the attack.
The more investigators asked for video from that evening, the more angry lawyers seem to get about the requests.
This all culminated with the USDA issuing a subpoena duces tecum, forcing the lawyers to provide them with material necessary to their investigation.
The lawyers called the move ‘ill-advised,’ and in the end the investigation was not able to come to any conclusion as to what caused the attack.
That investigation did not contain Lawrence’s version of events however, which he explained by saying: ‘Siegfried & Roy’s attorneys told us not to talk to any of them, or anyone for that matter, and that they would be releasing a joint statement to the USDA on our behalf.’
That does seem to be true, with the USDA report revealing that just a single member of the pair’s staff spoke to investigators, while every other person who submitted a written interview was a Mirage employee.