Jade Anderson death: Brutal crime or tragic accident?

Exasperated police and MPs are demanding a change in the law after 14-year-old Jade Anderson was killed by a pack of dogs in a house in Wigan

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The Independent Online

It was a savage attack that left a teenager dead, a community in shock and campaigners again demanding that urgent and far-reaching action must be taken to tackle the growing menace of dangerous dogs.

Jade Anderson's death, after she was mauled by five dogs while visiting a school friend's house in Atherton, Wigan, was so shocking that it was immediately assumed that criminal sanctions would follow. And yet it is quite possible that no charges will ever be brought.

One police officer could not contain his frustration yesterday that the death may simply be recorded as a "tragic accident" rather than a criminal matter. The dogs appear to have been bred legally– and four of the five have already been destroyed.

"We need to piece together a few things," the officer said. "It doesn't appear on the surface that any overt crime has been committed, as perverse as that sounds when a 14-year-old has been mauled to death."

No one else is thought to have been present when officers went to the house shortly after 2pm on Tuesday following reports that Jade was unconscious and a number of dogs were out of control. Four of the animals, thought to be two bull mastiffs and two Staffordshire bull terriers, were destroyed, while a fifth dog was safely contained.

Jade is believed to be the ninth child killed in a dog attack since 2005. Her death has intensified pressure on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to speed up changes to dog control legislation. An estimated 210,000 dogs attacks involving people take place each year.

Last month, ministers announced that from 2016 every dog will be required to have a chip implanted beneath its skin, from which it can be identified on a central database. They also said that the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act would be amended "as soon as parliamentary time permits" to offer greater protection to people attacked by dogs on private property.

But last night calls were growing for action to be taken more urgently. Campaigners also highlighted the fact that only four breeds are banned under the current legislation: pit bulls, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro. They warned that other types of dog could be dangerous if not properly trained.

Anne McIntosh, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, told the BBC: "It's not so much the breed of the dog as the way that particular animal is taught to behave. I urge the Government to come forward with these proposals as a matter of utmost urgency." She added that neighbours should be able to report "potentially dangerous" animals to the police or local authorities.

Yesterday, the house in Atherton remained sealed while police continued their inquiries. They are still uncertain about what happened, and sources at the Greater Manchester force said it was not clear if any crime had been committed. The dogs were inside the house at the time of the attack. They belonged to Beverley Concannon, a dog breeder who lives at the house in Chaucer Grove with her boyfriend. Jade was visiting one of Ms Concannon's daughters when she was attacked.

Ms Concannon's son Anthony, 21, posted a message on his Facebook page yesterday expressing his disbelief at the incident. He wrote: "Can't believe that my mum's dogs killed a 15 year old". He described the incident as "outa control". Mr Concannon, who lives in Falmouth, Cornwall, described the animals as "aggressive dogs". A post-mortem examination was expected to be carried out yesterday afternoon.

Superintendent Mark Kenny, who is leading the police inquiry, said: "Part of the investigation will also look at the breed of dogs, which has yet to be confirmed."

Jade was a pupil at Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley, where the headteacher, Jan Garretts, led tributes to her yesterday.

Ms Garretts said: "We are all deeply shocked and saddened by Jade's tragic death. She had only been a pupil at the school since the summer but had made a real impact in that short time.

"Jade was a lively student who always had a smile on her face. She loved music and dance and was a regular at our after-school dancing club."