A grandmother who was savaged by two XL bullies died of "unsurvivable" dog bite wounds, an inquest heard.
Esther Martin, 68, was found unresponsive on 3 February at a house on Hillman Avenue in Jaywick, Essex. She had been in the area visiting her 11-year-old grandson. 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, they have since been bailed. The dogs were destroyed following the attack.
What we know
Martin, who was staying at the address but lived in Woodford Green, east London, 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.
At the inquest on Thursday, coroner’s officer Andy Flack said police were called to a disturbance at the address at 4pm on 3 February. Flack said Martin was pronounced dead at 4.47pm with her medical cause of death recorded as "dog bite wounds to the upper right limb".
Flack said "she was unresponsive" and added that "her injuries were unsurvivable".
Lincoln Brookes, senior coroner for Essex, suspended the inquest proceedings pending the outcome of the police investigation. He said: "May I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Ms Martin on what on any view is an extremely tragic death of a loved one."
Speaking shortly after the attack, 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. This was later confirmed by the police.
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."
Video: Esther Martin, 68, dies after being mauled by two dogs
Sonia 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.
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. She said: “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.
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.
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.