Grandmother cleared of dog victim Ellie's death

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The Independent Online

The grandmother of dog attack victim Ellie Lawrenson was acquitted of her manslaughter today.

The jury of seven men and five women at Liverpool Crown Court found Jacqueline Simpson, 45, innocent after a six-day trial.

Ellie was killed by her uncle Kiel Simpson's pit bull terrier on New Year's Eve after Simpson, who had smoked 10 joints and drunk two bottles of wine, let it in.

Ellie, killed at Simpson's home in St Helens, Merseyside, had 72 injuries.

Hearing the verdict, Simpson wiped her eyes. Speaking to the jury, the judge said: "This is an unusual case which had given rise to very strong emotions.

"Suffice to say, the greatest sentence passed in this case is a life sentence of regret this lady has passed on herself."

The jury heard that Simpson was also charged with possession of heroin found in her home after police searched it in the aftermath of Ellie's death.

Neil Flewitt QC said it was not in the public interest to pursue the charge.

The judge asked him if the Crown Prosecution Service had ever considered a prosecution against Simpson's son, Kiel Simpson, 24, for manslaughter.

He answered that officers in the investigation believed there was no realistic chance of conviction as Kiel did not believe the dog had access to the little girl.

Referring to evidence from William Dinsdale, 70, that the pensioner had reported the pit bull terrier attacking him in May 2006, the judge asked if police had investigated that complaint.

Mr Justice Royce said: "It's important for that to be investigated because if a report of an unlawful dog was ignored, it is a very unacceptable state of affairs."

Mrs Simpson left court flanked by family, friends and her legal team without saying a word.

Asked how she was going to get on with her life and for a tribute to her granddaughter, Mrs Simpson, dressed in her court clothes of a black jacket and trousers, looked down at the ground and continued her 200-yard walk to a friend's car. She was driven away in a silver Nissan Primera.

Earlier, hearing the acquittal verdict, Ellie's father Darren Lawrenson, 31, a self-employed leaflet distributor, stormed from court.

He declined to answer reporters' questions.