The former soldier who stripped naked and fed himself to the lions at a Chile zoo never got over his mother dying from breast cancer when he was 11, it has been reveal.
Franco Ferrada, 20, launched himself into the lion pit at Santiago Zoo in front of horrified onlookers on Saturday while claiming to be a prophet sent from God.
He left a note in the pocket of his abandoned clothes to be a prophet and declaring the end of the world was nigh.
Delusions: Franco Ferrada – identified in these pictures by the Chilean media – threw himself into the lion pit in front of horrified onlookers at Santiago zoo, taking all his clothes off before he was mauled
Problems: Locals say he had never gotten over being abandoned in a orphanage at the age of 11, when his mother died unexpectedly of breast cancer and his alcoholic father refused to care for him or his siblings
Injured: The only way to save his life was to put down the two lions which were attacking Mr Ferrada, who is now recovering in hospital with serious wounds to his face, skull, neck, shoulders and groin
‘The apocalypse has arrived, and I will know when it shall come,’ he wrote. ‘I am the prophet and I have returned for my people.’
It is unclear whether he was trying to end his life, although witnesses at the zoo spoke of how he recounted to them the biblical hero, Daniel, who was thrown to the lions but saved by an angel sent by God.
Surprised: Mr Ferrada had been described as ‘happy’ by those who know him. Pictured: Mr Ferrada, as claimed by the Chilean media
Along with his scribbled prayer, two strange drawings of lions were found in Mr Ferrada’s wallet by paramedics as he was rescued from the cage and transferred to his Santiago emergency room.
It is thought the episode may be in some way related to the death of his mother from breast cancer almost 10 years ago.
Mr Ferrada was put into care – and ‘never forgave his alcoholic father for abandoning him’, according to friends. It is said his father was driven to drink by the loss of his wife.
‘Franco appeared to be a very happy young man on the outside,’ said a shopkeeper in the Puente Alto district of Santiago, where the Ferrada Roman family live. ‘His actions at the zoo surprised us all, but his family is very troublesome.’
‘They are notorious in Puente Alto for being very raucous and often drunk,’ said Mr Castellano, who comes into contact often with the Ferrada family.
Today, Mr Ferrada, who is listed on Facebook as having worked at Burger Kind in Santiago, Chile, has no relationship with his father, and joined the army following his discharge from the state orphanage system in order to escape his mental demons, according to many who knew him in his home town of Puente Alto.
Currently recovering in the Santiago hospital Clinica Indisa, with wounds to his face, skull, neck, shoulders and groin, Mr Ferrada is one of nine children.
In 2006, following the death of their mother, Ruth Aurora del Carmen Roman Villegas, all nine children were taken into Chile’s SENAME state care system when their father refused to care for them.
Belief: It is unclear whether he was trying to hurt himself. He told witnesses about the story of Biblical hero Daniel who was thrown to the lions – shortly before he threw himself into the pit. Pictured: Mr Ferrada, as claimed by the Chilean media
Unable to help: The attack occurred in full view of visitors, who could only watch in horror
Safety: The entrances to the lion enclosures were closed off after the attack. Zoo director Alejandra Montalva said she was ‘deeply affected’ by the deaths of the two animals
Mr Ferrada’s older brother Jose Luis Ferrada is serving a jail sentence for alcohol-related crimes, while his other siblings live in the impoverished Puente Alto district, an area known for its high crime rates.
He left the state care system at 18 to join the army, where he served in the base at Coyhaique for 18 months, in the Chilean state of Aysen.
‘He was a very happy boy,’ said his military colleague Gonzalo Molina, ‘It’s so strange for me to find out he had psychological problems.’
Following his discharge from the army in 2014, Mr Ferrada was living in the centre of Santiago with other young friends, and working in a warehouse for a Chinese business.
His grandmother Nolbertina Muñoz told the Chilean media. ‘The death of his mother was very difficult for Franco. After that he was always very concerned with taking care of his brothers and sisters.’
But she added: ‘He visited me last weekend. He seemed happy and told me he was very content.’
Despite his friends and family being unaware of his mental suffering, the cracks in Franco’s psyche began to show. On Mother’s Day he wrote an emotive message on Facebook lamenting his loss.
‘Mummy, it’s been nine years since you left for the arms of the Lord,’ he wrote.
‘I always remember the sacrifice you made for my siblings and me. How I would love to have you here, to hug you and kiss you and feel your protecting warmth, just as when I was born.’
Anger: Neighbours speak of Ferrada being put into care after his mother’s sudden death from breast cancer when he was 11 – saying he ‘never forgave his alcoholic father for abandoning him’. Pictured: Mr Ferrada, as claimed by the Chilean media
Change: He joined the army once he left care, with colleagues remembering him as a ‘very happy boy’. Pictured: Mr Ferrada, as claimed by the Chilean media
In the following days he wrote a shorter, cryptic message – saying: ‘Only I can write my life.’
And three days before throwing himself naked to the lions in which two of the beasts mauling him were shot dead, he wrote: ‘I’m here to give you love.’
Santiago Zoo is now considering legal action again against Mr Ferrada, accusing him of trespass for climbing into the lions’ enclosure.
Zoo director Alejandra Montalva said: ‘He trespassed into an area where the public are not normally allowed and we understand that he forced the roof of the lion’s enclosure.
‘It was from there that he jumped, took off his clothes and started to attract the lions.’
She said she was ‘deeply affected’ by the deaths of the two lions, a male and a female.
‘The zoo has an established protocol because people’s lives are very important to us,’ said Montalba.
She added that there were no fast-acting tranquilizers available to stop the lions from mauling the man.
One witness, Cynthia Vasquez, said zoo security guards were slow to react and that the animals did not attack the man as soon as he entered the enclosure.
‘He entered the enclosure from above and the lions started to play with him, and then after they attacked him,’ she said.
She added security ‘first they threw water, evacuated the people and only later fired shots’.
She also said the man was ‘shouting things about Jesus’.
A father who was at the park with his young son, told news channel Chilevision: ‘Everyone started screaming when they saw him.’
Another witness added: ‘There were a lot of children there, and parents covered their eyes while it was going on. He was screaming religious things.’
The news channel said a suicide note that was found inside his clothes made allusions to the apocalypse as being a reason for his attempt to take his life.
By Saturday evening, Mr Ferrada was said to no longer be in a life-threatening condition.
Dr Sebastian Ugarde of Indisa Clinic said his heart almost stopped.
He added: ‘He suffered several injuries and trauma to the head and the pelvic area. We have high hopes that will recover and that will be fine.’