Page last updated at 08:41 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Breed inquiry into boy death dog

John Paul Massey
Four-year-old John Paul Massey died from his injuries

Attempts to establish the breed of dog which mauled a four-year-old boy to death in Liverpool are continuing.

Merseyside Police hope to discover later whether the dog which killed John Paul Massey was deemed illegal under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

The child's grandmother, Helen Foulkes, 63, was also hurt trying to stop the attack at her home in Wavertree.

A post-mortem examination of the dog, which was shot dead by police, was being carried out on Tuesday.

"The process of identification of whether a dog is illegal under the Dangerous Dogs Act takes time," a spokeswoman said.

"It is a complex issue and further forensic examinations are ongoing to establish the type of dog involved in this attack."

John Paul was attacked by the animal at the house in Ash Grove in the early hours of Monday.

Brother 'traumatised'

Mrs Foulkes was also savaged as she tried to protect the youngster, who she was baby-sitting. She has since been released from hospital.

John Paul's 13-year-old brother was also in the house and was not injured, but police said he had been left "deeply traumatised" by the attack.

Pupils at St Clare's RC Primary School, where John Paul was in the nursery class, are being offered support by teachers after being told of his death on Monday.

Head teacher Michael Hennessey said: "He was a friendly, cheerful little boy who was bright and enthusiastic in everything he did."

Scene of attack in Liverpool
Forensic officers examined the scene of the dog attack

Julie Denham, a friend of John Paul's mother, was among those who have paid tribute to the youngster.

She told the BBC: "He was such a lovely, lovely little boy... He was so playful and lovely, he was only talking about Christmas time last time I saw him."

Neighbours also spoke of their shock at the death and complained there had been a problem with dangerous dogs in the area.

Merseyside Police said if the dog was found to be a banned breed then the owner may face prosecution.

Dog 'was evidence'

An animal psychologist has questioned whether the dog should have been destroyed by police and said their investigation may have been helped if it was still alive.

Dr Roger Mugford, who has given evidence at a number of dangerous dog cases, told the BBC: "A dog that was involved in any serious bite injury or an attack on a human should be retained as forensic evidence.

"We can't screen every dog in the country and say this one is dangerous, this one's safe.

"But at least when a dog is involved in any serious incident it should be retained as evidence, tested and then possibly euthanised - but in a calm way."

As well as investigating the breed, Merseryside Police are also looking into why no action was taken about a report of dog breeding at the house in February.

The matter went no further because a call centre operator wrongly told the local housing officer that it was not a police matter.

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