Family slam police and prosecutors for failing to act in Preston dog bite death
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Police who investigated the death of 55-year-old Sharon Jennings say they passed on a file to the Crown Prosecution Service - only to be told there was "insufficient evidence" to bring a case under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
And after an inquest heard Sharon died in the Royal Preston Hospital from sepsis, caused by a highly unusual strain of bacteria found in some dogs, her son David Mather told the Post: "We're disgusted that no-one is going to answer for this.
"We feel we've been failed by the police and the CPS. Mum lost her life and nothing has been done about it."
The inquest was told that Sharon and her grandson had been out walking her Jack Russell terrier Diesel on a disused railway line near to her home in the Brookfield area of Preston on Friday May 31, 2019 when it slipped its lead. A fight started with a bigger ginger and black dog which it was claimed was also off the lead.
When Sharon tried to separate the two animals she received bites to her arm and neck. It was alleged the other dog owner did nothing to help.
Three days later she was found in a serious state at her home in Garsdale Road, Ribbleton and admitted to hospital where she died on Friday June 7 - exactly a week after being bitten.
Intensive care consultant Dr Andrew Haughton said she had been "severely ill" with multi-organ failure when she was admitted. "She was in a very poor state," he said.
She was confused, agitated and her blood pressure was low.
Blood tests confirmed sepsis and it was discovered that she had been infected with a rare bacteria which exists in the teeth of some dogs.
“There was no other obvious source of infection other than dog bites,” he said. He added that by that stage she was in kidney failure and the infection had already spread throughout her body.
Dr Haughton revealed there had only been 56 reported cases of this infection in humans and in a third of those it had proved fatal.
Det Insp Chris Wellard from Preston Police said he was part of the team which investigated the incident "to see if anyone had been criminally culpable" by having a dog which was dangerously out of control.
Sharon had two sets of wounds, showing she had been bitten by both dogs as she tried to pull them apart. Some of the bites, which were small, had clearly been caused by her own dog Diesel. But the more serious wounds, especially to her forearm, had been inflicted by the bigger dog Chaos.
He said the police had submitted a file to the CPS. The dog and its owner were identified, the dog had been seized and tests were carried out. But the CPS concluded there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
DI Wellard told the inquest there had been claims of a previous incident involving the same dog, but that too could not be proved.
He added: “The main injuries to to the forearm were caused by the larger of the two dogs. The level of injury caused would not have been caused had the dog been on a lead.”
Sharon’s son David claimed in court that the owner of the other dog "clearly didn't try to stop it." He also alleged he had initially denied even being there on that day.
"Any decent person would admit they were there and would try to stop it," he said. "If he had tried to stop it he would have had marks on him. If that dog had been on a lead it wouldn't have been anywhere near as severe."
He said he had urged his mother to get treatment after the attack, but she was "trying to get her dog to the vet's before she got herself to hospital."
And he revealed she became so ill over the weekend that eventually the fire brigade had to be called out to gain entry to her flat so she could be taken to hospital.
"To be honest though, if she had got there sooner I don't think anything would have helped. She was that bad."
Coroner Richard Taylor told the hearing: "It's important to note that an inquest is not a trial, no-one is here on trial.
"Whether earlier treatment could have helped is a moot point. I can't say that.
"It is a very virulent bacteria and would have caused sepsis early. She was more concerned - which may speak volumes for her - about the state of her dog rather than looking after herself."
After the inquest her son David added: "It's three years ago, yet it's still hard to take in. She was a brilliant mum and we all still miss her so much.
"But we're angry. I accept what the coroner said, but I don't really agree that the police and CPS couldn't do any more. To be honest I just think they're a waste of space."
His sister Natalie Mather said: "We've never even been told what happened to the dog.
"But people on Brookfield have told us it was handed back to the owner and he’s been out walking it as normal. It's ridiculous."