Week-old baby boy died with fractured skull after cot attack by pet dog
Tuesday 09 April 2013
A week-old baby boy died of head injuries after being attacked by a normally-placid pet dog as he slept in his cot, an inquest has heard.
Telford Coroner's Court was told the family of Harry Harper, who suffered a fractured skull, had an unblemished record of caring for and controlling dogs over many years prior to the tragic accident last November.
Harry was pronounced dead in hospital around 90 minutes after being bitten by his family's seven-year-old Jack Russell.
The infant, who also sustained brain damage, was taken to Telford's Princess Royal Hospital by ambulance on November 20 after being attacked in the living room of his mother's family home in the Ketley area of the town.
Members of Harry's family, including his mother Mikayla Bell, 19, and his grandmother Teresa, did not give evidence in person to the inquest.
But their statements and those of a paramedic who attended the scene were read to the court by a coroner's officer.
In her statement, Harry's mother, who works as a sales assistant, described Jack Russell PJ and the family's German shepherd cross as "mild-mannered" pets.
Miss Bell said: "There have never been any issues with the dogs and young children - they are never aggressive towards people or other dogs.
"As a family, we were all very mindful of the dogs."
On the morning of November 20, Miss Bell said she was woken by an alarm at 6.30am and later heard her mother screaming and shouting.
"I immediately ran downstairs and saw mum holding Harry over the sink," she said. "Mum was repeatedly saying 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry' and I heard mum say 'He's been bitten'.
"I think at some point mum said it was PJ that had bitten him."
In her statement, the baby's mother went on: "I feel angry about what happened but I don't blame anyone - I am shocked to know it was PJ because he wasn't vicious at all.
"I understand that no-one is to blame and what happened was a really tragic accident."
Detective Inspector Phil Shakesheff, of West Mercia Police, told the inquest that a criminal inquiry had found no evidence that either of the family's dogs had previously been dangerous or out-of-control.
The senior officer said: "The family have an unblemished history of caring for and controlling many dogs over a period of many years.
"On this occasion this Jack Russell has not followed (Harry's grandmother) back into the kitchen for a gate to be closed and remained in the sitting room to attack the baby.
"There is no evidence to suggest that the death of Harry is anything other than a tragic incident that can't be ruled out from occurring in any other dog-owning household where children are present."
The hearing continues.
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