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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
From puppy to brutal killer
By Julia Houston
BBC News

Ellie Lawrenson
Ellie died from multiple injuries after the attack
Ellie Lawrenson was like most little girls with a family pet - she loved, cuddled and mothered her uncle's puppy, even putting him in her toy pram as she played.

But Reuben was not like most family dogs.

The pit bull terrier grew from being a playful young dog into a fearsome six-stone muscle-packed adult, who attacked a neighbour's Jack Russell, and Ellie's aunt, Kelsey.

Ellie's father, Darren Lawrenson, described the dog as "evil".

It was a sentiment echoed by Ellie's mother Lindsay Simpson who said as Reuben got older he became jealous of Ellie and "hated" her.

The dog was usually kept away from the five-year-old - but on New Year's Eve in 2006 Ellie's grandmother Jackie Simpson made a decision which was to cost the youngster's life.

She saw Reuben peering in through the patio doors and allowed him into the house - because he appeared scared of fireworks being let off.

In a sickening 20 minute attack which, Liverpool Crown Court heard, left the room "awash" with blood, Reuben mauled Ellie to death.


Jackie Simpson was found not guilty of Ellie's manslaughter by gross negligence at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.

Hours before the attack, the family had been in celebratory mood with Ellie going out for dinner with her parents Lindsey and Darren and uncle, Kiel Simpson, who was Reuben's owner.

The group had returned to Jackie Simpson's house, on Knowles House Avenue, St Helens, for her to babysit Ellie and her brother Joshua, who was only a few months old at the time.

Ellie's mother Lindsey went out into St Helens with her sister Kelsey, and Darren went into Liverpool to celebrate the New Year with Kiel.

Jackie Simpson, who had been drinking a substantial amount of alcohol and smoking cannabis, left Reuben in the garden as she looked after Ellie in the living room.

Ellie Lawrenson on a beach
Ellie suffered head and neck injuries
But later in the evening, Ms Simpson recalled how she spotted Reuben quivering in the chilly night air outside the patio door.

She let him in, and she remembered how he wagged his tail before lying down in front of them.

It was when Ms Simpson decided to go to bed, just before 0400 BST, the dog became agitated.

As she got up to switch off the light, a firework was let off outside and the dog jumped up and started running around.

This was the moment Reuben was to attack young Ellie.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how the dog locked its jaws around Ellie's throat and shook her violently in the vicious and prolonged attack.

'Flesh found'

Ms Simpson told the court how she wrestled with the animal, hitting him as she tried to pull him from her granddaughter.

Reuben also injured Ms Simpson, who received treatment for injuries to her arm and hand. Her flesh was later found on the ceiling of her living room by forensic experts.

She managed to get the dog back outside into the garden before calling police.

But by then Ellie had suffered 72 injuries, which proved fatal.

Reuben was finally shot dead by police.

The dog was banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 - the act which outlaws the breeding and sale or exchange of four kinds of dog - pit bull terriers, Japanese Tosas, the Dogo Argentinos, and the Fila Brasileiros.

Kiel Simpson was jailed for eight weeks earlier this year for being in possession of a dangerous dog.

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