Boy, 9, mauled to death by dog after being left alone in caravan with animal while mum drank with friends

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

The forensic pathologist said ‘even if it occurred outside the front door of a large hospital, I doubt Frankie could have survived’

A nine-year-old boy was mauled to death by a family friend’s dog after being left alone in a caravan with the animal, an inquest heard.

Frankie MacRitchie, from Plymouth, received fatal head injuries after being attacked by the 45kg American bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier in April 2019.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Frankie had been staying in the caravan at Tencreek Holiday Park in Looe, Cornwall with his mother, Tawney Willis, and her friend Sadie Totterdell.

Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard Totterdell had rented the caravan from April 7 for a holiday and was joined by Frankie and his mother on April 11.

The following day Totterdell brought the dog, called Winston, to the caravan and that evening they all went out to the park’s social club before returning about midnight.

Frankie was left alone with dog

Willis and Totterdell joined friends in a neighbouring caravan where they continued drinking, leaving Frankie alone with Winston.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Friend Cheryl Crocker said Willis left the caravan a couple of times to check on Frankie and the first she became aware of the incident was when she heard screaming.

“Tawney came running in screaming. Tawney kept screaming and screaming and she needed to find Frankie’s nan,” she said.

Her partner Jordan Pearce added: “We were all sat in our caravan when Tawney went out to check and I could hear something, so I turned the music down and didn’t hear anything.

“We put the music back on and heard a scream and she literally ran in through the door and that’s when we knew.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dog owner fled park after attack

Pearce said that after the attack, Totterdell fled the caravan park, taking Winston with her.

“I remember Sadie coming towards our caravan and saying, ‘What do I do? I’m going to take him and kill him’,” he said.

“She tried getting the dog into our caravan and I remember kicking the dog out and saying the dog’s not coming in here, and that’s when she just disappeared, and no one knew where she went.”

The 9-year-old boy suffered defensive bite wounds from the dog (image: Devon & Cornwall Police)The 9-year-old boy suffered defensive bite wounds from the dog (image: Devon & Cornwall Police)
The 9-year-old boy suffered defensive bite wounds from the dog (image: Devon & Cornwall Police) | Devon & Cornwall Police

The court heard the emergency services were alerted shortly before 5am on April 13, after Willis returned to the caravan and discovered Frankie lying on the kitchen floor covered in blood.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Emergency first responders and paramedics arrived and attempted resuscitation, but Frankie was declared dead at 5.35am.

Defensive bite wounds

Dr Deborah Cook, a Home Office registered forensic pathologist, said Frankie had died from blood loss caused by multiple dog bites.

“The wounds have the characteristics of dog bites in a mauling type of attack,” she said.

“The concentration of the injuries over the head and the neck is in keeping with the recognised behaviour of dogs in attack.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Frankie had appeared to have suffered defensive bite wounds, so may well have attempted to fight off the attack, Dr Cook said.

Injuries were ‘so extensive’

Frankie had been born with a congenital heart condition and was prescribed warfarin for thinning his blood, but this was not a factor in his death.

“The injuries are so devastating and so extensive anyone, a child or adult, would have died from the blood loss,” Dr Cook added.

“Even if it occurred outside the front door of a large hospital, I doubt Frankie could have survived.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The court heard Ms Willis and Ms Totterdell were later prosecuted and jailed.

The inquest continues.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.