Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Four-year-old boy killed by dog

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

A four-year-old boy has been mauled to death by a dog at a family home in Liverpool.

The child, who the BBC has learnt was called John Paul Massey, was attacked at the property in Ash Grove, Wavertree, just after midnight.

A 63-year-old woman was also injured and is being treated in hospital. It is believed she was hurt as she separated the dog from the child.

Merseyside Police said armed officers killed the animal in the front garden.

Dog handlers also attended the scene and an investigation has begun. Efforts are continuing to identify the dog's breed.

'Agitated state'

Ch Supt Steve Ashley said: "This is a tragic incident and a full and thorough investigation will be carried out into the circumstances surrounding this young boy's death.

"Officers are with the family and our sympathies are with them at this time."

He added: "Of utmost importance in such incidents is the safety of the public and of police officers. "When officers arrived at the address the dog was in an agitated state in the front garden of the property and was deemed to be a danger to the public.

There is an awful lot of pain inside
Father Peter Morgan, parish priest

"As a result we were left with no other option but to have the animal destroyed quickly and humanely."

On Monday morning, police tape surrounded the house and street where the boy was attacked.

Local parish priest Father Peter Morgan, of St Anne's Church in Edge Hill, emerged from the house on Monday afternoon after meeting the family.

He said: "There is an awful lot of pain inside... They are broken, it is so, so sad."

The BBC's North of England correspondent, Nick Ravenscroft, said the youngster's identity was confirmed by the head teacher of St Clare's Roman Catholic Primary School in Wavertree.

Scene of attack
Much of the street remains cordoned off by police

People spoke of their shock at the death but complained there had been a problem with so-called dangerous dogs in the area.

Gillian Watson, 46, who heard the gunshot that destroyed the dog, said: "It's such a terrible thing to happen to a family.

"There are lots of dangerous-type dogs around here. You always see young lads with pit bull dogs roaming around.

"I have a dog myself and when I take him for a walk sometimes it's quite terrifying because you think your dog is going to be attacked."

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said residents had complained to the local Housing Association about the problem.

He said: "You see them all the time, they're huge animals and it is very threatening."

The attack comes nearly three years after the death of Ellie Lawrenson, a five-year-old killed by her uncle's pit bull terrier on New Year's Day 2007, just a few miles away in St Helens.

Merseyside Police held a dangerous dogs amnesty after her death in which more than 80 illegally-held dogs were seized.

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