The dog that savaged John-Paul Massey to death was an illegally-held pitbull-type dog banned for being too dangerous to keep, it was revealed today.
The four-year-old boy was attacked by the powerful dog, which locals said was a family pet that belonged to his uncle, in the early hours of yesterday morning while at the home of his grandmother, Helen Foulkes, 63, in Liverpool.
The animal, called Uno, also savaged her as she tried to protect the boy she was babysitting at her home on Ash Grove in the Wavertree area of the city.
Merseyside Police admitted today they were told months ago that a banned pitbull-type dog had been seen at the house.
A forensic examination was carried out on the animal and the dog was confirmed as being an illegal breed, the force said.
Deputy Chief Constable Patricia Gallan, of Merseyside Police, said: "Following extensive examinations and a post-mortem, an independent expert has confirmed that, in his opinion, the dog involved in the incident in Ash Grove, Wavertree, yesterday is a pitbull terrier-type dog which is classified as a dangerous dog under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991).
"Our thoughts remain with John-Paul's family at this time following his tragic death.
"A child's life has been lost and it is essential that we determine the exact circumstances surrounding the attack. Investigations into the incident are continuing.
"Ascertaining the type of dog involved in this attack has been a complex issue.
"It has taken some time to complete the examinations and post-mortem before we have been able to confirm that it is an illegal type of dog. We are conducting a criminal investigation.
"On behalf of Merseyside Police, I am deeply concerned and very disappointed that our policy was not followed in February when we received a call alerting us to the possible breeding of pitbull terriers at the house where the attack took place.
"This is clearly unacceptable and we are sorry that Merseyside Police did not take the appropriate course of action at that time.
"Given the seriousness of this situation, and our failure to follow our own procedure, we have referred this case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who will be carrying out an independent investigation."
The owner of the dog, which was shot dead by police, could now face a possible criminal prosecution.
Police have refused to confirm whose dog it was, but locals said it was owned by John-Paul's uncle, who lived with the boy's grandmother until he joined the army recently.
He is understood to have been given compassionate leave from the forces to be reunited with his family in Liverpool, after being spotted visiting the area yesterday according to locals.
A complaint was made by a city housing officer last February about dog breeding at the home but a police call centre operator told the caller it was "not a police matter" and the complaint was never followed up.
The case comes less than three years after five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson, also being minded by her grandmother, was savaged to death by her uncle's pitbull terrier, Reuben, 10 miles away in St Helens, also Merseyside.
Some dogs are bred for illegal fighting while others are kept as "status symbols".
The force said that since that attack on New Year's Day 2007, they have clamped down on the problem and destroyed 339 dogs of illegal breeds.
Today a tribute from John-Paul's mother, named locally as Angela McGlynn, was taped to a bunch of red roses outside the house where the child was killed.
"My beautiful, beautiful boy, an angel who will never be forgotten," wrote his mother.
"I just can't believe this has happened to my baby, my beautiful little boy.
"I will love you forever and a day.
"I miss you, baby. Lotsa love, Mummy xxx."
Among the tributes left to the youngster were children's toys including a Thomas the Tank Engine, toy aeroplanes, teddy bears and rosary beads.
And there were numerous messages from the family of the youngster.
A second tribute read: "My little star. Nanny loves you all the world."
Another tribute from Great Aunt Maureen read: "A precious angel only lent. Sleep in the arms of Jesus."
Also added to the growing pile of floral tributes was a large bouquet written to "the best nephew in the world", from Ian, Neil and Christian.
The message continued: "No words can express the hurt and loss we feel. Goodnight and God bless."
Emergency services were initially called to Mrs Foulkes's house just before 12.25am yesterday.
She was looking after John-Paul and his brother Craig, 13, while their parents were out.
Ambulance crews were told John-Paul was not breathing and unconscious after he was attacked by the dog in a rear ground-floor room.
His grandmother had managed to pull the dog away and get it into the front garden of the house.
But there was nothing that could be done to save John-Paul and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mrs Foulkes suffered dog bites to her legs and body, has since been discharged from hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.Reuse content