Chimp owner’s chilling screams as beloved pet ripped her friend’s hands and face off

On a day like any other Charla Nash went to visit her friend who happened to own a chimpanzee that she had raised like a son for more than a decade.

Travis the chimp came into the care of Sandra Herold and her husband Jerome in 1995 when he was just three days old after its mother was shot and killed trying to escape an animal sanctuary.

The adopted chimp became well known around Stamford, Connecticut – where the couple lived – and was often seen riding around in the couple’s tow truck, donning a baseball cap and posing for photos by amused locals.

From being around humans so much, Travis learned to open locked doors with keys, turn the television on and even drive.

From the outside, it looked as if Travis had integrated completely with the Herold family and he became more important than ever to Sandra when Jerome died from cancer in 2004, following the death of their only son four years earlier.

Charla had no reason to fear Travis when she pulled up outside Sandra’s house on the afternoon of 16 February, 2009.

Previous photos showed the pair comfortably hanging out together.

But by approximately 3:40pm Travis viscously attacked Charla, 55, tearing her eyes out, her lips and nose.

The bones of her face were completely smashed in.

The 200lb chimp even ripped off both of her hands, such was the ferociousness of the unprovoked attack.

Sandra desperately tried to rescue her friend by hitting Travis with a shovel and stabbing him in the back with a carving knife.

She later called the stabbing “like putting one in myself”.

Sandra, then 70, called the emergency services where she could be heard screaming “he’s eating her” and “he’s killed my friend”.

On other clips from the blood-curdling 12-minute call, a breathless Sandar sobbed: “He ripped her apart! Hurry up! Hurry up! Please!”

“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?”

The call was initially thought to be a joke but when the paramedics and police turned up they saw the true extent of the hellish incident.

Travis smashed one of the wing mirror’s of the police car.

He was shot several times at point blank range by an attending officer but was able to get back inside his home where he was found lying dead outside his cage.

Charla was rushed to hospital for a seven-hour operation to save her – and by some miracle she survived.

A few of the hospital staff involved needed therapy afterwards because what they saw was so disturbing.

Over the following months, Charla underwent surgery to reconstruct her face as well as receiving pioneering hand transplants.

However, the new hands were rejected by her body but Carla eventually fundraised enough money to buy a prosthetic hand for nearly $13,000.

Nobody knows why Travis did what he did but it transpired that Charla had hold of one of his favourite toys when he attacked and that she had also changed her hairstyle, so would have looked slightly different.

Sandra, who died in 2010, said the day before that she had given Travis a dose of anti-anxiety medication because she was concerned he seemed “agitated”.

He was also taking pills for Lyme disease.

In 2003, Travis’s uncontrollable animal instincts were highlighted when he escaped while out in the truck to chase someone who had thrown an empty soda can into the vehicle and hit him.

It took several hours to lure Travis back to his owners.

Amazingly, brave Charla appeared on Oprah Winfrey later on in 2009 dressed in a hat with a veil covering her face.

She described herself as never being a quitter but that there was nothing she could do about her life-changing situation.

She added: “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.”

In 2012 she received a $4million settlement from the Herold estate, but most of that went on medical and legal bills.

Thankfully she has no memory of the attack, a fact that helps her manage psychologically, and was told that it could stay “hidden for years”.

Carla remains blind and severely impaired but keeps her day busy by listening to the radio and audio books.