Uncle bailed after dog mauls girl to death

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The Independent Online

The uncle of an 18-month-old girl who was mauled to death by his dog in a "truly horrific" attack was released from custody on bail today by police.

The 32-year-old man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of manslaughter after the toddler was attacked and killed by the animal, believed to be an American bulldog, at her home in Cotton Walk, Broadfield, Crawley, West Sussex.

A Sussex Police spokeswoman said that he was released on police bail until July 15 pending further inquiries.

The attack happened in front of the girl's three-year-old sister, mother and grandmother, according to police.

Workmen from a nearby property managed to rescue the girl from the dog's jaws but she had suffered serious facial injuries.

She was rushed by ambulance to the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, where she was pronounced dead.

A post-mortem examination has been carried out on the victim but the spokeswoman said the details would not be released until tomorrow after the family had been informed.

She added: "A formal identification is also expected to be carried out following which the identity of the victim will be released."

Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles, who is leading the investigation, said: "Officers have been working through the night to build up a picture of what led to this appalling tragedy.

"It appears that the little girl was in the kitchen with her grandmother, mother and three-year-old sister when the dog entered the house from the garden.

"What happened next was truly horrific as the dog picked up the child and attacked it in front of her family.

"Two workmen at a nearby property heard screaming and ran to the house to help.

"They were able to distract the animal who dropped the baby from its jaws.

"One of them then pulled the child to safety before an ambulance was called."

He said the 32-year-old man was not in the address at the time of the attack but arrived shortly afterwards and was arrested. He also lives at the address and is the owner of the dog, Mr Bowles added.

The police spokeswoman said that the dog was being "securely held" and would be destroyed.

She added that confirmation was being sought by detectives as to the breed of the animal but she said that although it was originally believed to be a mastiff it was now thought to be an American bulldog.

The spokeswoman said: "This is not a breed to be banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act."