Aggressive police dog hunting for drug dealer repeatedly bites frail pensioner in her own kitchen leading to her death
A police sergeant from the Cleveland Police told the inquest hearing that he was shocked that the dog locked on to Collins the second time and escaped its handler to attack her
An inquest has heard that an elderly woman has died after she was attacked in her own kitchen twice by a police dog — it attacked her once and then broke free of its owner's hold to bite her again. 73-year-old Irene Collins, who was suffering from lung cancer and emphysema, was attacked by the police dog called Dano after he entered her property with his handler, PC Mark Baines, to search her garden.
After the attempt to locate a suspected drug dealer had been unsuccessful, Dano charged through Collins' back door and began an attack that left the elderly pensioner horrified and screaming. A police sergeant from the Cleveland Police told the inquest hearing that he was shocked that the dog "locked on" to Collins the second time and escaped PC Baines to attack the woman again after the vicious first assault.
The Daily Mail reported that the jury at the Teeside Coroner's Court heard evidence of the attack on the elderly woman that took place in July 2014 at her home in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire. She died four days after the attack in the James Cook University Hospital located in the town. Mark Egan, a pathologist from the Home Office, discovered at that time that Collins would not have died if the dog hadn't bitten her.
A report in StHelensstar reads how the inquest heard that Dano had previously bitten 11 people or animals prior to it joining the Cleveland force. Police then denied having any knowledge of the dog's history of biting. Dano was put down after the incident.
Cleveland Police was 'unaware' of 11 previous biting incidents involving dog that attacked Irene Collins, inquest told https://t.co/C2mRkH9dBn— Teesside Live (@TeessideLive) September 19, 2018
The elderly woman was able to give a police inspector a brief description of the events that took place. The jury was told that Collins spoke from the hospital bed and said: "I was in the kitchen when the dog came in. I thought if I stood still it would not bite me but it bit me on the arm. They got the dog off but it came back and got me by the leg." The inquest also heard that right before the dog attacked Collins, a car had crashed into police vehicles and two suspects had been arrested while another one fled the scene.
The authorities found £100,000 in cash and heroin inside the vehicle that crashed into the police car. PC Baines and his police dog, Dano, along with a Cleveland force helicopter immediately set out to find the suspect who had fled on foot. Sergeant Neil Yates, who is an armed response officer who had arrived at the scene of the crash, was also at the inquest giving evidence. He told the jury that he heard PC Baines saying over the radio: "The householder has been bitten".
Sgt. Yates described what he saw in the home by saying: "Mrs. Collins was lying on the floor with her head facing towards me as I came into the back of the house. I could see she had a small cut to her face and head and I could see Dano the police dog was biting her on the right forearm. She was lying on the floor and the dog was over the top of her. PC Baines had hold of the dog by its collar and was shouting: 'leave!' Mrs. Collins was on her side with one arm in the dog's mouth, she was lying on her left side."
"PC Baines had Dano by the collar, Dano was wearing two collars and he had him by the larger more substantial one. Looking down to her right lower leg she had an injury to her leg. I came to the conclusion the dog had also bitten her there, there was quite a lot of blood on the floor. It took a little bit of time, a couple of seconds. I was shouting 'get the dog off' and he was shouting 'leave'.' It then did leave her and he dragged it onto the hallway. I was trying to reassure her that she was alright. I called for a medic kit from the police car. My intention was to get down and start treating her injuries until the ambulance arrived."
He also said that he had been shocked to see that the dog had managed to break free of the hold that his handler had on him and started attacking the pensioner again. Sgt. Yates said: "PC Baines asked me to close the doors between the hallway and the kitchen but I realized it was an arch and there were no doors. I was taking my gloves from my vest and Mrs. Collins was still lying on her left side. The police dog came back into the kitchen and the dog again bites the right leg of Mrs. Collins, again it locks onto her leg, it bites down and stays attached as it were."
The coroner, Karin Welch, asked him: "What did you think when the dog came back into the kitchen?" Sgt. Yates replied by saying: "Frankly, how the hell is this back in here? I was shouting to PC Baines to get the dog off, Mrs. Collins was screaming, she was upset and asking 'Why is this happening to me?' I was trying to reassure her whilst telling PC Baines to get the dog off her. I held her hand and told her 'It's ok we are getting the dog off you'." He also said that neither he nor Collins had done anything to upset the dog, in his opinion.
Representing Collins' family at the hearing, Matthew Donkin asked Sgt. Yates, who had been armed with a handgun at the time of the attack: "Did you think shooting the dog?" The police officer replied: "I considered all options but that was not an option that was anywhere near viable. I was confident the officer would get the dog off within a reasonable time."
Pathologist Mark Egan recorded that the cause of death had been a cardio-respiratory failure due to COPD, cancer of the lungs, and dog bites. Karin Welch, Teeside's assistant coroner, said: "Dr. Egan recorded at the time she would not have died when she did - notwithstanding her medical difficulties - had it not been for the dog bites. You will hear from him when he gives evidence in due course." The hearing is still on-going.