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What we know about Esther Martin, grandmother who died in XL bully attack

Esther, 68, was attacked by two XL bully dogs in Jaywick, Essex, on Saturday 3 February.

Esther Martin died after being attacked by dogs.(SWNS)
Esther Martin died after being attacked by dogs at a property in Jaywick, Essex. (SWNS)

Two dogs that fatally attacked a woman while visiting her 11-year-old grandson were XL bullies, police said on Friday.

Esther Martin, 68, was found dead on Saturday at a house on Hillman Avenue in Jaywick, Essex.

She was killed after reportedly trying to break up fighting puppies.

Essex Police previously said a 39-year-old man from Jaywick was arrested on suspicion of dangerous dog offences and that there was a "familial relationship" between him and the victim. The dogs were destroyed following the attack.

On Monday, the force said he had been released on conditional bail until 5 March.

What we know

Martin was a grandmother of eight and a great-grandmother of three. She died at the scene despite the efforts of six police officers, as well as members of the public, to save her.

The victim’s daughter, Sonia Martin, 47, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, told the BBC in the aftermath that the dogs involved were XL bullies: a breed banned by the government since the start of this month.

Following an examination of the two dogs' physical features by a police-trained dog expert and a veterinary scientist who carried out a forensic post-mortem examination on them, Ch Supt Stuart Weaver of Essex Police said on Friday: “Through this combination it was confirmed that the dogs were XL bullies."

He added: "I know there has been a huge amount of speculation about the breed and type of dog involved here, but it was really important we got that information right and established the facts. We owe it to Esther and her family to ensure we are thorough, professional and, above all, fair.

“XL bully is not a breed of dog in itself, but a sub-category of the American Bully and identifying categories of a breed can be a complex process."

(PA)
The fatal dog attack happened in Jaywick, Essex. (PA)
The police cordon in Hillman Avenue, Jaywick, Essex, after a 68-year-old grandmother was savaged to death by two dogs. Essex Police said Esther Martin, from Woodford Green in London, was attacked at a property in Hillman Avenue in Jaywick on Saturday afternoon. Picture date: Sunday February 4, 2024.
Police outside the home on Hillman Avenue, Jaywick, Essex, where Esther Martin died after a dog attack. (PA)

Sonia Martin had said there were two adult dogs in the house and that her mother had previously "raised concerns to the owners about them being dangerous and quite aggressive". She added there were also six puppies.

She said she believed the puppies had been fighting and that her mother had been told by the dogs' owner to “put a broom in among them, to distract them”. She said: “That’s when she was attacked.”

Sonia Martin later told the BBC her nephew "ran out of the house screaming for help", adding some neighbours grabbed spades in an attempt to "fight off" the dogs.

She added: "My concern was if my nephew hadn't run out of the house what could have then happened to him? He's 11."

Watch: Esther Martin, 68, dies after being mauled by two dogs

She told the broadcaster her family was aware the dogs' owner previously had to move address due to complaints from neighbours about his pets. She also raised concerns that the two adult dogs had been "kept penned in a small chalet". She added: "How the hell can that be any good for an animal?"

Martin said her mother, who was retired but had worked at a Tesco store, had been “getting her life back together” following the death of another daughter two years ago.

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Lucy Shaw, 38, who lives behind the property where the attack happened, said: “We went out into the garden and it was all quiet and then we heard dogs barking, and then we heard someone screaming.

“It seemed like the screaming of a child. That went on for about 10 minutes."

What we don't know

The 39-year-old man who was arrested has not been identified by police, but the Mail Online reported he is the victim's son-in-law, Ashley Warren.

His mother, Michelle Stotter, 55, told the Mail Online he had been trying to sell the dogs and posted an advert on social media last November offering them for £500 each.

The police cordon in Hillman Avenue, Jaywick, Essex, after a 68-year-old grandmother was savaged to death by two dogs. Essex Police said Esther Martin, from Woodford Green in London, was attacked at a property in Hillman Avenue in Jaywick on Saturday afternoon. Picture date: Sunday February 4, 2024.
Police officers at the scene on Hillman Avenue, Jaywick, Essex, where Esther Martin was killed. (PA)

It is not known if the dogs were registered legally under new laws which came into force at the beginning of this month, although Sonia Martin believes they were not.

Essex Police set up an online portal for witnesses to send in information about what happened.

In its update on Friday, the force said it is making "good progress" in the investigation and that it is "committed to getting the answers her family need about what happened and why".

New rules for XL bully dogs

As of 1 February, 2024, owning an XL bully has been illegal unless the animal is on an exempt list, called the Index of Exempted Dogs.

Those who wanted to keep their dogs had until the end of January to register them on the list and must comply with strict requirements, including muzzling and keeping them on a lead in public.

Dogs more than a year old on 31 January must be neutered by 30 June next year, while those under 12 months old must be neutered by 31 December 2024.

Owners without a certificate of exemption will face a criminal record and an unlimited fine if they are found to be in possession of an XL Bully as of 1 February, and their dog could be seized.