Essex dog attack: Woman visiting grandson is killed by dogson February 4, 2024 at 5:59 pm

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Esther Martin’s daughter told the BBC how neighbours helped “fight off” the dogs with spades.

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A woman killed in an attack by dogs was visiting her grandson for the weekend, her family have said.

Esther Martin, 68, died at the scene of the attack in Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, on Saturday afternoon.

A 39-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of dangerous dog offences and the animals have been destroyed.

Ms Martin’s daughter told the BBC the animals were banned XL bully dogs but police said they were waiting for the breed to be confirmed by experts.

Sonia Martin said her mother had been visiting her 11-year-old grandson from her home in Woodford Green, London, at the time of the attack.

Ms Martin, 47, described how her nephew “ran out of the house screaming for help” and said some neighbours grabbed spades to try to “fight off” the dogs.

“We’d really like to thank all the neighbours for coming and helping and trying to save my mum’s life,” she added.

“My concern was if my nephew hadn’t run out of the house what could have then happened to him? He’s 11.”

Esther Martin

Image source, Family Handout

Ch Supt Glen Pavelin, from Essex Police, said the suspect’s relationship to Ms Martin – who was a grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of three – was “familial”.

Ms Martin described how she received a knock at the door from a local police officer at her home in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, at 22:00 GMT, informing her that her mother was seriously hurt.

“There were adult XL bully dogs in the property, and my mum had raised concerns to the owners about them being dangerous and quite aggressive,” she said.

“There were also six puppies.”

Ms Martin said she believed the puppies had been fighting, and that her mother had been told by the dog’s owner earlier to “put a broom in among them, to distract them”.

“That’s when she was attacked,” she said.

Police cordon in Jaywick.

Image source, Richard Knights/BBC

Lucy Shaw, 38, who lives nearby, told the PA Media news agency that she heard screaming.

“We went out into the garden and it was all quiet and then we heard dogs barking, and then someone screaming,” she recalled.

“We went back in after a while because it sounded horrific.”

‘Hallowing and shouting’

Mike Coleman, 74, who lives a few doors down, said he saw a man coming down the road to the address and shouting.

He said: “He starts whacking at the windows. He appeared panicked and said ‘phone the police’.

“My wife phoned them and minutes later the police came – two cars, then three then five, and then they blocked the road off.

“I heard the shots of them being destroyed, then that was it.”

His wife Julie Coleman, 67, said the man they saw shouting “said there was a lady inside the property who was being attacked by two dogs”.

“He was hallowing and shouting ‘they’re XL bullies’,” she remembered.

Police cars at the Jaywick Sands seafront

Image source, Ed Schooling

Ch Supt Pavelin praised the six officers who entered the house for “their swift actions”.

“Their unflinching bravery and professionalism ensured that there is no ongoing threat to the people of Essex as a result of this incident,” he continued.

“Both dogs were destroyed inside the house.

“I would also like to thank the local people who had tried to get into the house to help Esther Martin. You should be proud.”

Ms Martin said her mother was “getting her life back together” following the death of another daughter two years ago.

“She loved going out on day trips, the coaches were her favourite – she actually had a couple booked with one of her nieces,” she recalled.

Her mother, she said, had worked at Tesco in Leyton, east London, but retired at about the time of her daughter’s death.

She said the dog attack had robbed their whole family.

“It’s killed our mum and it’s killed our children’s grandmother. I’m getting married in a couple of years and my mum won’t be at that.”

flowers laid against a wooden fence
Police officers in white forensics suits with their backs turned

Ch Supt Pavelin added: “Our thoughts remain with everyone affected by what has happened.

“I have seen the flowers laid down for Esther Martin, as have my officers. I would like to thank all those who have come together to pay tribute to her.”

He urged anyone with information to get in touch or speak to officers at the scene.

What are XL bully dogs and what is the law?

An XL bully is the largest kind of American bully dog. Other types include standard, pocket and classic.

The government described them as large dogs “with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for [their] size”.

In England and Wales, the breed has been added to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. It means breeding, selling or abandoning them is illegal.

To get a Certificate of Exemption, allowing owners to keep their XL bullies, they need to get insurance, neuter their dog, and pay a fee of £92.40.

American XL bully dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

Scotland has also announced a ban, which will come into force later in the year.

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