Helen Macdonald looks out over the fields beyond every morning as she opens her Gloucestershire farmhouse’s back door.

‘Some days I think he’s still there, just out of my sightline,’ she says. ‘Then I have to confront the fact he’s gone all over again.’

He, of course, being Geronimo, Helen’s adored eight-year-old chocolate alpaca who, for four years, grazed contentedly there until he was put down — though ‘executed’ is the word she feels is more apt — following a legal battle which gripped not only the UK but the entire world.

Government vets claimed he had tuberculosis, while Helen vociferously disputed this, asserting that a validated test would have shown he was clear — and yesterday, as the Mail revealed, she was vindicated when test results on tissue samples taken from Geronimo showed no trace of it.

This is bittersweet because her pet can’t be re-homed despite all the exonerating tests. There’s only one thing that gives Helen a little solace. That’s the fact that something of ‘funny, happy, cheeky’ Geronimo does actually live on.

Pictured: Helen Macdonald stands alongside Geronimo the alpaca who was sentenced to death earlier this year

Pictured, Helen Macdonald standing alongside Geronimo Alpaca, who was executed earlier in the year

Today, we can share the news that Geronimo sired calves (called cria) — two daughters and a grandson — what some might call his ‘Geroni-minis’.

Geronimo was a mate with two female alpacas before he arrived in the UK. The latter produced the girls Nevalea La Cherie (the first of which gave birth to Oakwood), and the second, London. ‘So Geronimo is a grandad,’ says Helen, 50, even now unable to use the past tense.

And, even though she has been vindicated, there is no triumph in Helen’s voice when we speak in the aftermath of news of his negative test. ‘There’s no cause for celebration — how could there be? The result only confirmed what I knew all along: Geronimo has never been diagnosed with TB.

‘I have always said this and I have never deviated, which is why I asked for another test before he was killed. But they wouldn’t listen,’ she says. ‘Now he is dead for no reason at all.’

Government vets maintain that the test results do not mean the animal had been free of tuberculosis but Ms Macdonald labels his death on August 31 as ‘state-sponsored slaughter’.

Footage of the day Geronimo was removed from his home by Defra officials, accompanied by dozens of police officers after they forced their way onto Helen’s farm, distressed animal lovers around the world.

Pictured: Officials are seen in an animal pen alongside Geronimo the alpaca moments before taking him away on August 31, 2021

Pictured: Geronimo, the alpaca is seen with officials in an animal pen moments before being taken away by Geronimo on August 31, 2021 

‘Geronimo was a lovely boy and no one should have had to witness a veterinary official drag him to his death,’ she says, her eyes filling with fresh tears at the memory.

‘He was taken in his prime by supposed experts who should have known better.

‘The way he was taken was horrific and defied basic decency and moral and ethical behaviour. That is why what happened touched such a chord with the public.’

Helen got letters from around the world to support her efforts to save Geronimo. ‘He was special because people thought that he was theirs,’ she says. ‘People had this sense of outrage at what was happening, about the fact that people weren’t engaging reasonably.

‘I have had my door open for nearly five years asking people in Government to talk to me and everyone has been too frightened to walk through it. Instead they tried to bully my. And if they can do this to me then they can do this to other people.’

Indeed, half of Geronimo’s shortened life — alpacas typically live to 20 — took place under a question mark. The pedigree beast, worth £15,000, had been earmarked for execution ever since he was brought to the UK aged four from his native New Zealand in August 2017 by Helen, who intended to introduce a new bloodline to the herd she keeps at her farm, using their wool to make luxury scarves and pashminas.

Helen decided to administer a voluntary, newer blood test that was administered by an outside Government-approved company. Although the test had been negative for bovine tuberculosis (bTB), Helen believed it would be a good idea. This was her rightful and responsible choice. It was the beginning of a nightmare legal and ethically when it turned out that there were antibodies to TB.

Helen believes it was a ‘false positive’ because Geronimo had been ‘primed’, meaning he had already been injected with a small amount of bovine tuberculosis, gauging immune response, twice within ten months. The positive test was confirmed by a subsequent one.

So her fight became the right for another straightforward blood test — with no prior ‘priming’ — which was denied. ‘We tried everything to get officials and ministers to see reason.

Vain battle: Helen with her beloved Geronimo

Helen and Geronimo in vain fight

‘But at every juncture they just kept saying that he failed these tests and that if they tested him again and he didn’t have it, it would be a false negative and would not prove anything.

‘This isn’t rational behaviour and it’s certainly not scientific. Although no test is perfect, I just wanted to have a conversation. Instead, I was confronted with brick wall after brick wall.’

Helen’s legal battle ended at the High Court in July, when a judge issued a final warrant to allow Government vets access to Helen’s property to remove Geronimo for execution, although by then the battle for the public’s hearts and minds had been won.

Around 147,000 people put their name to a petition begging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to save him, while celebrities from Chris Packham to Joanna Lumley also voiced their support for Helen’s cause. The petition was ultimately rejected.

At the end of August, Government vets arrived at Helen’s farm in Wotton-under-Edge and a clearly distressed Geronimo could be seen being dragged by a cow rope into the back of a trailer.

Helen cannot bear to think about it. ‘It causes me huge anguish to think about his final hours,’ she says. ‘At the very least they could have brought an appropriate head collar and they could have tried to remove him calmly.

Geronimo’s legacy: Oakwood, left, and London

Geronimo’s legacy: Oakwood, left, and London

‘Instead, they brought a rope and dragged him in panicked desperation into the back of a trailer. With the rope so long, he could not have possibly sat down.

‘I can’t even think about him in the truck — I have nightmares about it. As far as I am concerned, he was tortured.’ Helen says that post-mortem tests carried out in September showed the presence of blood cells in Geronimo’s airways, indicating that he had suffered trauma.

What they did not show were any lesions on the lungs or respiratory tract, the most common place for manifestation of bovine tuberculosis, although Defra said its vets had discovered a number of ‘TB-like lesions’ in the liver and lymph nodes. On the pathology report, however, there were no unusual lesion. Defra says that recent testing was done not to verify or confirm previous results but rather to find out which strain of the disease was infecting the animals and to inform future tests.

The latest batch of test results took 12 more weeks to come out, including those on bacteriological cultures taken from tissue samples by APHA (the Animal and Plant Health Agency).

Helen received the information via an email. ‘No one has ever done me the courtesy of making a personal phone call to me, even though everyone involved in this is only too aware of the distress I have been in,’ she says.

The email informed her that the ‘culture’ result for the ‘above camelid’ [the biological family alpaca belong to]Attached

His other girl: Sash-wearing Nevalea

Sash-wearing Nevalea is his second girl

The truth is that she did open it with some anxiety. It was clear that the message was not more obvious. It read: ‘M.bovis (mycobacterium bovis) not detected.’

‘In other words, no TB’ says Helen, of the Latin name. ‘But of course, I already knew that. At one level, I felt completely flat. It was because I knew it would.

‘But then all the anger came again. They have slaughtered a healthy animal and they knew it, that’s the worst thing.’

She adds: ‘They just tried to wear me down and tried to convince me I was wrong and when that didn’t work, they tried to bully and threaten me.

‘They were always going to kill him — I believe they had decided that already — and they made it impossible to do it otherwise.’

Helen believes it goes on today: after the latest results, Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss issued a statement pointing out that the animal tested positive ‘on two separate occasions using highly specific tests’ and claiming that ‘due to the complexity’ of tuberculosis, testing had not enabled them to understand how the animal ‘became infected in the first place’.

Helen says: ‘She is still insisting that Geronimo did in fact have the disease. Not only is she saying that just because we don’t find disease doesn’t mean he wasn’t infected, but she is saying he was infected because a test that wasn’t validated confirms disease.’

Helen’s outrage and grief is shared by many: at home she has boxes of hand-drawn cards sent by children touched by Geronimo’s plight. ‘I’ve also had heart-breaking letters from parents who say their children cried when they heard Geronimo had been killed,’ she says. Yesterday, she received an identical outpouring of support after hearing the news about the new test results. ‘I‘ve had emails from all over the world from people who are angry and upset by what has happened,’ she says. Helen does have hope, though it is not an ending that’s happy.

While Geronimo did not get chance to breed in the UK as Helen had intended — he spent every day of his life here in quarantine, segregated from Helen’s herd — it is a different story over in New Zealand where his family live on.

Is it possible that she might consider bringing either her grandson or another of his offspring here? It is difficult for her to decide whether she will bring his grandson or one of his offspring over here.

‘I trust the breeder so I would definitely go back to that same farm and there is something lovely about the idea of that connection with Geronimo,’ she says.

Her immediate concerns include deciding whether she will sue the Government.

‘One thing I do know,’ she says. ‘People should not be treated like this. What has happened didn’t need to happen. It has caused huge distress and is plain wrong.’