Seven-stone dog Dano bit retired hospital worker Irene Collins (pictured) twice on the arm and twice again on the leg in her kitchen, causing major blood loss
Police forces should have warned officers about an ‘out of control’ search dog which bit a 73-year-old woman who died four days later, a jury has found.
Seven-stone dog Dano bit retired hospital worker Irene Collins twice on the arm and twice again on the leg in her kitchen, causing major blood loss.
Mrs Collins died in hospital after the dog, which had been searching her garden for a suspected drug dealer who had escaped, attacked her at her home in Middlesbrough in 2014.
The dog had been involved in 10 previous biting incidents, including one on a victim’s face, before he was bought for £500 by Cleveland Police who were not aware of the previous attacks.
The inquest jury at Teesside Magistrates’ Court found that two police forces which sold the dog on – Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary – should have revealed more about its past.
The jury found Mrs Collins was bitten four times and suffered a broken forearm and facial bruising in the attack by police dog Dano.
The foreman said: ‘Mrs Collins died of natural causes contributed to by the consequences of dog bites while the dog was out of control.
- The dog’s history should have been shared as part of the transaction between the two forces.
- Dano’s handler PC Mark Baines could have prevented it from attacking Mrs Collins a second time by gripping the dog with both hands or straddling it.
- There was a delay in the dog releasing Mrs Collins during its first attack on her.
- Mrs Collins was not warned there was a police dog searching her garden and should have been
- Police officers should have done more to ensure the back door to Mrs Collins property was securely closed before the dog was allowed into her garden
- During the search of her garden a police officer, PC Andrew Jobling, should not have been standing on the roof of Mrs Collins shed, getting the animal’s attention and causing it to bark
- After barking at PC Jobling the dog should have been recalled by its handler and ‘repurposed’ before the search started again.
The pensioner, who had terminal lung cancer, told her son afterwards that the dog was ‘out of control’.
The inquest heard Dano’s handler, PC Mark Baines, gave the command ‘out’ and the dog released his grip.
But after Dano was taken into the hallway, he got free from his collar and returned to bite Mrs Collins on the leg.
She required surgery for a broken arm and skin grafts and, although she made a good recovery initially, she developed pneumonia in hospital and died on July 20 2014.
Coroner Karin Welsh said she had made recommendations in the light of the evidence placed before the inquest to prevent further attacks of a similar kind.
Irene Collins’s family arrive at her inquest at Teesside Coroner’s Court today
She has urged police to share information about the history of police dogs before any transactions take place between forces.
She added: ‘There are issues as to whether it would be sensible for dog handlers to have a second lead and I think enquiries and a review have been undertaken regarding that. I would be interested to know the outcome of that review.’
Addressing Mrs Collins’s family she said: ‘I cannot begin to imagine what you have been through as a family. I can only hope that the conclusion of this part of these matters brings some closure.’
On the night Mrs Collins was attacked police were searching for a suspected drug dealer who had fled a car that was stopped and contained £100,000 in cash and heroin.
Two men were arrested, but the third ran off and was ‘garden hopping’ through Middlesbrough’s Park End estate.
A police dog was brought in because undergrowth on the ground was too dense for the crew of the force helicopter to get a good view of the fleeing suspect.
Dano – who had been teamed with PC Mark Baines since January 2013 – was brought in to search the area and Mrs Collins gave her permission for police to look through her back garden.
However the inquest was told she did not know the dog was being brought in and her back door was pushed shut, but was not securely closed on the sneck.
Dano’s handler PC Mark Baines (left) could have prevented it from attacking Mrs Collins a second time, the jury found. Right: tributes to Mrs Collins outside her home in Middlesbrough
PC Baines told the jury inquest that Dano was let off his lead, did a sweep of the garden and leapt up and barked when he saw one of the searching officers, PC Andrew Jobling, standing on a shed roof.
The dog then made its way towards the house and PC Baines briefly lost sight of it, in which time it had got through the back door, the jury was told. he tried to get a firm grip and circled back into the kitchen to savage her again.
Mrs Collins’ son Eric, 51, was called and found her in a pool of blood.
He told the hearing: ‘She was screaming my name out, being treated by paramedics.
‘She kept saying numerous times, “the dog was out of control”.
PC Baines described of the moment he lost his tentative grip on the dog, saying the dog was in ‘prey drive’.
He said: ‘Dano was in prey drive. To put it simply he was in fight mode. It was a matter of seconds, I had very little opportunity to do anything.
‘I was controlling a six and a half to seven stone police dog with one finger.
‘I tried to get a better grip of him by putting my hand between his neck and the chain and twisting it so I had hold of him completely.
Penrith Road in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, where Irene Collins was killed after being mauled by a police dog
‘But as I adjusted my hand, because of the drive he was in, he came backwards out of his collar.
‘He rounded into the kitchen and bit Mrs Collins on the rear of her right leg.’
Mrs Collins’s family said in a statement: ‘It has been a very difficult four years for the family, it has been a long drawn out process.
‘We are grateful to the coroner and the jury for their consideration of this case.
‘We feel that it is important to stress that the findings of the jury are that there were failings by the individual dog handler and Cleveland police on the night in question and that the conclusion of the jury was that Irene was bitten at a time when the police dog was out of control.
‘Even though we have had the inquest, we as a family don’t feel we have had the justice Irene deserved.
‘She put her trust in the police that night and they failed her badly. as a family we hope that no other family have to go through what we have gone through over the last four years.
‘We hope lessons have been learned and changes have been put in place to prevent this happening again.’