Crazed pet chimp wails as he scalps woman and eats face in harrowing phone call

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It's hard to know what is more chilling about Sandra Herold's 911 call – hearing her helpless sobbing as she reveals her pet chimp is "eating" her friend's face, or the ape's frenzied screams in the background.

For an excruciating 12 minutes, Sandra is heard pleading for police to rush to her home to shoot dead Travis, the animal she had raised as her own son for the previous 14 years.

"Tell me, what is the monkey doing?," the operator asks as Travis's harrowing, almost gleeful, wails and screeches echo down the line.

"He ripped her apart! Hurry up! Hurry up! Please!” Herold breathlessly replies. “He—he ripped her face off! He's eating her face!

“Gun! They got to shoot him! Please! Please! Hurry! Hurry! Please! I can’t. I can’t … He’s eating her! He’s eating her! Please! God! Please! Where are they? Where are they?”

Officers did come and Travis was killed. Astonishingly, his victim, Charla Nash, survived, but you could argue that in many ways, her life too came to an abrupt end that day.

Charla, a friend of Travis' 'mom' Sandra, had been asked to pop over to help put the pampered ape in his enclosure – but, uncharacteristically, he snapped, attacking her and gnawing off her face and hands.

In a show of terrifying primal strength, Travis ripped off her eyelids and tore off her nose.

Is it morally acceptable for chimpanzee babies be raised as human? Tell us in the comments below.

He scalped her, gouged out and ate her eyes, chewed off one of her hands entirely and almost tore one of her arms off.

Her jaw was entirely dislocated from her skull and she was left with brain damage.

It is still not known why Travis – a local celebrity who would eat lobster in restaurants, had a pet cat, and loved driving around on a lawnmower – flipped out the way that he did that day.

Sandra later admitted giving him a dose of strong anti-anxiety medicine Xanax in his daily cup of tea earlier that day when she noticed that he was 'agitated'.

She also claimed that he behaved viciously because Charla was wearing her hair differently.

But it could also have been that at the age of 14, the 200lb (14st) ape's instincts had simply become too strong – or that he was simply sick of his unnatural lifestlye of cooking his own microwave meals, drinking wine at dinner, and using the toilet like a human.

Sandra had owned Travis since he was just three days old, paying a breeder $50,000 for the infant chimp.

His mum was shot with a tranquiliser dart so that he could be stolen away – and from that moment on, he was no longer a chimpanzee, but Sandra's 'son'.

To outsiders they had an unbreakable bond, and even shared a bed after Sandra's husband died.

After the attack on February 16, 2009, the then 70-year-old told reporters: "He couldn't be more my son than if I gave birth to him."

But everything has a breaking point, and for Sandra, that came when she saw her beloved 'little boy' mauling her best friend.

Due to Charla's horrific injuries, Sandra was the only person able to explain exactly what had prompted the attack.

She claimed Travis approached Charla aggressively before getting onto his hind legs and launching the savage attack, throwing her against the side of her car before gorging on her face and hands.

Desperate, Sandra stabbed him in the back with a carving knife and battered him over the head with a shovel in a bid to make him stop, which it did for a moment.

She recalled how he turned around and looked at her, before she ran for her life and locked herself in her car.

Sandra said: “I grabbed the shovel and hit him with the shovel to stop it. It wasn't working, so I went and I had to get a knife — and I stabbed him. I had to.

"He looked at me like, ‘Mom, what did you do?’”

When police arrived, Travis was in a frenzy of bloodlust. He opened one of their patrol car's doors and lunged at an officer.

Despite being shot four times at point blank range Travis didn't die.

He ran back in to the house, and collapsed dead on his special bed, leaving a trail of blood behind him.

The gunshots are heard in the background of Sandra's breathless 911 call.

When paramedics arrived on the scene they were unable to decipher the victim's gender due to the severity of the wounds.

Like something from a horror film, "strips of flesh and scalp" had been flung around the yard of Sandra's Stamford, Connecticut, home.

They assumed that Charla, who was a mass of bloodied flesh with no recognisable facial features slumped in a pool of her own blood, was dead – until she moved.

They sprung into action, and managed to save her life.

The brutal attack had caused her to lose half of her blood and she would later undergo a face transplant. Sadly, a pioneering hand transplant was rejected by her body.

After the incident, NBC reporter Jeff Rossen asked Sandra: “After what you've been through with this — your friend is in the hospital fighting for her life — do you still think chimps should be pets?"

She replied: “Would I have done it again? Yes! They're the closest thing to humans — to us.

“We can give them a blood transfusion, and they can give us one. How many people go crazy and kill other people? This is one incident that I don't know what happened.

“It was a horrible thing. But I'm not a horrible person. And he wasn't a horrible chimp. It was a freak thing.”

Fifteen months later Sandy died from an aneurysm. She was buried with two urns beside her. One was her daughter's, the other belonged to Travis.

The only survivor of that hideous day is Charla Nash, who now lives in darkness, wearing someone else's face and entirely dependent on the staff at the care home where she will spend the rest of her days.

Ahead of the face transplant she spoke to Oprah Winfrey, and rued the loss of the life she loved.

She said: "I've never been a quitter. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot I can do.

“I’ve lost so much independence. I could change my own truck tyre, and now I can’t even feed myself.

"It's very hard to live. Not even live – half-live.

“Sometimes you want to cry, you want out, you want some kind of home. I don't know what my future is, that's the scary part."

  • Animals
  • Monkeys
  • Police

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