Caterham dog attack: woman, 28, died from ‘multiple penetrating bites’ to her neck while walking dogs

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Natasha Johnston suffered shock and haemorrhage after being attacked by dogs

A young woman who was mauled by dogs at a Surrey beauty spot died of “multiple penetrating” bites to her neck, an inquest has heard.

Natasha Johnston, 28, suffered shock and haemorrhage including a wound to her left jugular vein on 12 January in Gravelly Hill, Caterham.

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Surrey Coroner’s Court heard that the 28-year-old, from Croydon, is believed to have been walking several dogs when she was attacked.

Police at Gravelly Hill in Caterham, Surrey, where a dog attacked Natasha Johnston (Photo: PA)Police at Gravelly Hill in Caterham, Surrey, where a dog attacked Natasha Johnston (Photo: PA)
Police at Gravelly Hill in Caterham, Surrey, where a dog attacked Natasha Johnston (Photo: PA) | PA

At the opening of an inquest into her death, coroner Simon Wickens expressed his “sincere condolences” to her family “and all those touched by her life”.

He said on Tuesday (31 January): “A post-mortem examination was carried out at Royal Surrey County Hospital on January 18.

“The medical cause of death (was) given as 1a) shock and haemorrhage including perforation of the left jugular vein, and in 1b) the pathologist places multiple penetrating dog bites to her neck. The reason for the inquest required is the nature of the traumatic injuries.”

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Mr Wickens confirmed Ms Johnston’s listed occupation was a dog walker and formally recognised her family as interested persons in the proceedings. He fixed a date of 29 June for the inquest to begin but added it could be subject to change.

Police are continuing to investigate after the attack (Photo: SWNS)Police are continuing to investigate after the attack (Photo: SWNS)
Police are continuing to investigate after the attack (Photo: SWNS) | SWNS

Last week, Surrey Police said it had closed its investigation into her death, with no prosecutions being brought against any individuals. Officers seized eight dogs at the scene and the force said none of them were banned breeds.

In a statement previously issued through police, Ms Johnston’s family said: “This is an extremely difficult time for us and as well as dealing with this sudden loss in our family, the significant level of media interest and the graphic nature of some of the reporting has been a source of additional distress. We continue to appeal for our privacy to be respected during our time of grief.”

Ms Johnston died after being mauled by dogs while she was walking in Gravelly Hill on 12 January. Sadly, despite the best efforts of paramedics, she was pronounced dead at the scene. Another woman was taken to hospital in a non-life-threatening condition, where she was treated for dog bites, but has now been discharged, police said.

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Police forensics. Credit: SWNSPolice forensics. Credit: SWNS
Police forensics. Credit: SWNS | SWNS

Armed officers, with support from the National Police Air Service, detained a total of eight dogs at the scene and they are now in police custody. The owners of all of the dogs have now been identified.

Chief Inspector Alan Sproston said following the attack earlier this month: “Our thoughts are with the family of the woman who sadly died this afternoon. This incident will be concerning to the local community and I would like to reassure them that we believe all dogs have been accounted for and are in police custody. Our investigation to establish the circumstances of the incident remains ongoing and we would ask the community not to speculate.”

Inspector Lyndsey Whatley, borough commander in Tandridge, added: “This is a tragic incident where a young woman has sadly lost her life and our thoughts are with her family and friends.

“I know that yesterday’s events will be of real concern to the local community and I would like to reassure residents that we are confident all the dogs involved are in the custody of police whilst we investigate the circumstances of what has happened. Officers will remain in the area of Gravelly Hill today whilst enquiries continue and if you have any information but have not yet spoken to police then please contact us.”

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The owners of dogs that kill someone can be jailed for up to 14 years or face an unlimited fine, or both. And even if there are no deaths, owners can still face five years prison if their animal injures another person.

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