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St Helen’s dog attack: what happened to toddler mauled to death by family pet near Liverpool?

A 17-month-old girl was killed by her family’s pet - just a week after they brought home the dog

A 17-month-old girl has died after being attacked by a recently bought dog at her own home.

Merseyside Police said officers received a report of a dog attack at an address on Bidston Avenue, Blackbrook in St Helens at around 3.50pm on Monday (21 March).

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Merseyside Police officers were called to an address on Bidston Avenue in St Helens (Photo: PA)

Emergency services arrived at the scene and the toddler, named Bella-Rae Birch, was rushed to hospital where she died of her injuries.

The dog, which had only been with the family for a week, was handed over to police at the address and has been humanely destroyed.

Neighbours said Bella-Rae was a “beautiful little girl” and described attempts to save her after the attack.

One resident said: “We pulled up from school and heard screaming. I just ran over to try to help and started CPR until the paramedics took over.

“I didn’t see the dog, I was just focusing on helping the baby.”

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she came home from the shops at about 4.30pm and the area was filled with police.

“My friend gave me a lift and I said to her there’s got to have been a murder,” she said. “The mum was on the field at the front of the house crying, she was hysterical.

“It is usually very quiet here and safe for children, but when you hear something like this has happened it is so distressing.”

Another neighbour, who helped to give CPR, said: “The parents doted on the children. It’s too upsetting to say anything else.”

Neighbour Joanne Matthews, 53, added: “She was such a beautiful little girl, toddling about.

“I’d see the family in passing, just to say hello, and they were always very pleasant.”

Ms Matthews said she had seen the ambulance outside the house on Bidston Avenue at about 3.50pm on Monday and then about 10 police cars, including a van, arrive.

She explained: “I saw them bring the dog out. I couldn’t tell what breed it was but from the back it looked like a Staffordshire bull terrier or pitbull.”

Police and forensic investigators outside the house in St Helens (Photo: PA)

Investigations ongoing

Police said the animal will be subject to further forensic examinations to determine whether it was an illegal breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991).

Detective inspector Lisa Milligan said: “This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the child’s family at this devastating time.

“The little girl’s parents and wider family are absolutely devastated and our specialist Family Liaison Officers are providing them with support at this horrendous time.

“Whilst we are in the very early stages of the investigation into this extremely tragic incident we can confirm that the dog was only bought by the family a week ago and officers are working to identify the previous owners of the dog concerned and establish its history.

“Our officers will remain on Bidston Avenue this evening and in the coming days to provide reassurance to the local community and we will work tirelessly to establish the full circumstances.

“If you were in the Bidston Avenue area this afternoon and witnessed anything, or have any information about the dog in question then please come forward and speak to one of our officers.

“Our officers take the issue of dangerous dogs very seriously. Over the past years we have worked proactively with the five local authorities in Merseyside to ensure prohibited dogs are taken off the streets.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Merseyside Police via Twitter @MerPolCC, or Merseyside Police Contact Centre on Facebook, with reference number 22000196837.

Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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