Karen Greybrook - former partner of "Lion Man" Craig Busch - has died following a freak accident.

Greybrook was a key figure in The Lion Man television show, hand-raising cubs, caring for big cats and even taking a lion on a beach walk from their home at Zion Wildlife Gardens near Whangarei.

The gates to the park are closed to casual visitors after receivers took over in July, and the park this month went into liquidation.

In 2007, Busch was convicted of two charges of assaulting Greybrook two years earlier. She suffered a fractured vertebrae, bruising and a cut head during the assault, which occurred after he found her in bed with another couple. Busch initially faced 11 charges stemming from the attacks but nine charges were dropped after the Crown offered no evidence.


Greybrook, a breast cancer survivor, had returned to her native Australia, and was helping out a friend when a rubber cord holding a load to a trailer broke.

"The hook came back and hit her in the face," said her father Peter Greybrook, of Adelaide. That nearly fatal accident happened in February 2009, and she had complained of headaches since. In March 2010, after numerous surgeries, doctors had to remove her eye, and it was eight months before she received a prosthesis. But on the morning of June 4 this year, aged 49, she suffered an aneurism, and didn't wake up.

Doctors have told the family her death likely stemmed from her accident.

A distraught Deneice Greybrook, Karen's mother, said: "Our happy, beautiful young girl, to lose an eye, she wasn't really coping. She put on a good front, but she was getting so much pain."

Deneice, who spent six months helping Karen care for the big cats at Zion in 2003, said her daughter had never recovered from having to leave Zion and her beloved felines.

"It destroyed her ... She had no children of her own - they were her children," she said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is working with receivers, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, to ensure the animals at Zion are properly cared for. MAF has said, if the park were to permanently close, it would secure the animals' future either locally or internationally.