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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 12:30 GMT
Inquiry into killer dog's history
Ellie Lawrenson
Ellie was found bleeding to death in the living room

Investigations are continuing in an attempt to establish whether a dog which killed a five-year-old girl in Merseyside had a violent history.

Ellie Lawrenson was mauled to death at her grandmother's house in St Helens on Monday. Post-mortem tests revealed she died of severe head and neck injuries.

Her grandmother was badly injured in the attack by the pit bull terrier-type dog, which was later destroyed.

Officials will meet to examine reports of previous attacks by the animal.

Officers from Merseyside Police and St Helens Council are also waiting to determine whether the dog is a breed which falls under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Under the 1991 act, owners of pit bull-type terriers can be prosecuted for attacks by their animals.

Solicitor Trevor Cooper, an expert in dog legislation, said if a court found a dog's physical characteristics were substantially that of a pit bull terrier, it would fall under the act.

"So it [the law] does cover cross breeds and it can cover a mixing of two perfectly legitimate dogs that can create and synthesize a pit bull terrier - that would be an unlawful dog."

When a child loses her life in such circumstances, it has an effect on the whole community
Supt Jon Ward

It has emerged that the dog's owner, Ellie's uncle, was warned by St Helens Council last June about the animal's behaviour.

It followed an incident in May in which the animal was said to have attacked another dog.

Several neighbours claimed the dog had violent tendencies and one man, who did not want to be named, said he had been attacked by the animal.

The 69-year-old said: "I was walking my dog early one morning sometime in September last year when I was attacked by that animal outside their house.

"It was jumping up at me, really going at me, but I managed to hold it at bay with my walking stick."

Pit bull dog

Police found the child in the living room of the property in Knowles House Avenue, Eccleston, shortly before 0430 GMT on Monday.

Ellie's grandmother, Jackie Simpson, had managed to lock the dog outside but suffered injuries to tendons in her arm, and wounds to her thumb and elbow.

She was taken to Whiston Hospital and underwent emergency surgery but is now said to be in a stable condition.

Dog handlers called to the house destroyed the animal.

Police said Ellie had been staying with her grandmother after her parents had been out to celebrate New Year's Eve.

Fatal attack

Supt John Ward, of Merseyside Police, said: "This is such a tragic incident. When a child loses her life in such circumstances, it has an effect on the whole community."

The meeting between police and council officers to discuss the tragic incident has been described as "routine".

The attack on Ellie comes just three months after a five-month-old girl was mauled to death by two Rottweilers in Leicester.

Cadey-Lee Deacon was savaged by the guard dogs at the Rocket pub in the New Parks area of the city.

Despite the attacks, The RSPCA said it did not believe that criminalising individual breeds was helpful.

A spokeswoman said: "The Dangerous Dogs Act is a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and goes against the RSPCA belief that the deed, not the breed, should be punished."

A family's experience of a pit-bull attack

Girl killed by pit bull terrier
01 Jan 07 |  Merseyside
Baby dies after Rottweiler attack
24 Sep 06 |  Leicestershire
Boy aged four savaged by bulldog
16 Aug 06 |  Cambridgeshire
New Dangerous Dogs
05 Jun 06 |  Law in Action

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