Girl Aged Five Is Savaged To Death By Uncle’s Pit Bull

The owner of a violent pit-bull terrier which mauled a five-year-old girl to death was formally warned about his pet’s aggressive behaviour seven months ago. Ellie Lawrenson was savagely attacked in the living room at the home of her grandmother, Jackie Simpson.

{mosimage} Mrs Simpson, 45, was also badly bitten while attempting to pull the crazed pet off her granddaughter.

The killer dog – a chestnut pit-bull called Reuben – was so out of control that it had to be shot dead by police marksmen after being cornered in the garden.

It belonged to the dead girl’s 23-year-old uncle, Kiel Simpson, who was warned by his local council last June after it attacked another dog.

But nothing was done and the animal was left free to attack and kill little Ellie in the early hours of New Year’s Day at her grandmother’s house in Eccleston, St Helens, Merseyside.

Last night St Helens council confirmed Mr Simpson was sent a warning letter after a neighbour complained the animal had attacked his dog.

“Police received a report on May 29 2006 about the dog’s behaviour, which was passed on to us at the council on May 31. A warning was sent out shortly after,” the spokesman said.

The apparent failure to act again highlights the inadequacies of the much criticised Dangerous Dogs Act which came into law in 1991 following a spate of similar attacks.

Ellie’s devastated mother, housewife Lindsey Simpson, was yesterday too upset to even talk to police about her eldest daughter’s death. The 24-year-old mother-of-two wept as she was comforted by friends at the family home in Eccleston, near St Helens in Merseyside.

She had dropped Ellie off at her grandmother’s house on New Year’s Eve before going out with the little girl’s father to celebrate the New Year with friends.

Lindsey, who also has a seven-month-old baby boy, returned in the early hours to pick up Ellie but the youngster asked if she could stay with her grandmother and given permission to do so. Miss Simpson left the three bedroom end-of-terrace house at 3.40am. Forty minutes later, a badly hurt Mrs Simpson rang police to say that both she and Ellie had been attacked by the dog.

Ambulance paramedics were scrambled but Ellie died at the house. Friends said last night that her injuries were “horrific”. Police sealed off the house yesterday and placed a forensic tent over part of the porch. Mrs Simpson suffered serious bite wounds to her arms and legs and was in hospital last night and will probably require surgery.

Superintendent Jon Ward, of Merseyside Police, said: “The attack happened some time after Ellie’s parents left the property. It would be impossible to say what has caused the dog to attack. The attending paramedics did what they could but Ellie died at the scene.”

Mr Ward said that Mrs Simpson had managed to forced the dog into a side entrance to the garden before armed officers and dog handlers arrived. But he added: “After an assessment it was decided the dog could not be safely removed from the scene and the dog’s life was humanely ended. It was shot by a trained marksman at 5.40am.”

Mr Ward said it was not clear exactly what type of dog killed Ellie. One theory is that it was a pit-bull mongrel created by cross breeding. But Mr Ward confirmed that officers would be launching an investigation under the Dangerous Dogs Act to see if any offences had been committed.

“Until we have ascertained the breed of dog there is no point speculating on what offences, if any may have been committed,” he said.

St Helens South MP Shaun Woodward said: “This is a terrible tragedy for the family and my deepest sympathies are with them. We must now await the critical police report looking into the circumstances of the attack.”

One neighbour insisted the animal was placid and kind and may have turned violent after becoming tormented by the sounds of the New Year displays. But Molly Griffin, whose niece lives close to the house where Ellie was killed, said: “The dog was always going wild. My niece stopped her four children from playing anywhere near it. It was a big dog. My niece even said to me that it was going to kill someone one day and now it has.”

Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, added: “Everyone around here had commented on how vicious the dog was. It was always out by the gate of the house. It was really aggressive, always barking and snarling when anyone walked past.

“You always had to be wary of it, but as far as I know it has never attacked anyone before. Ellie was such a beautiful little girl, we used to see her playing out on the street with the other kids. It is such a tragedy.”

Ellie’s mother was too distraught to talk about the tragedy. But a friend said: “It’s terrible. I saw the little girl’s mother, she was crying, she told me the pit bull had killed her little girl.”

The death comes just months after a spate of similar attacks. In September five-month-old Cadey-Lee Deacon was killed in September when she was attacked by two Rottweiler guard dogs in the living quarters of a Leicester pub.

Just three days after that attack, a toddler was underwent surgery for severe lacerations after being savaged by a Rottweiler in West Sussex. Two-year-old Harvey Lawrence was attacked at the home of his grandmother in Middleton-on-Sea, near Bognor Regis, suffering cuts and wounds across his face and body.

Last night a previous victim of a pit bull mauling called for that type of dog to be permanently muzzled.Rukhsana Khan, now 21, was six when her body was ravaged by 23 deep bites to her back and chest in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

She said: “I can’t believe things like this are still happening. After my attack there was a lot said about muzzling dogs, but it doesn’t seem to have happened otherwise we wouldn’t keep getting cases like this. There are still too many attacks despite the change in the laws.”

Ellie’s uncle lived at the house which is why the dog was there.