A mum who admitted owning a banned American pit bull that mauled her baby daughter to death because it was “jealous” was yesterday jailed for two years.
Pregnant Claire Riley, 23, was arrested after family dog Bruiser savaged six-month-old Molly-Mae Wotherspoon, at their home.
The snarling five-stone hound burst out of its cage and clamped its jaws around Molly-Mae’s head after seeing the tot as “prey”.
Molly-Mae, who was being looked after by her gran Susan Aucott, 56, died in hospital of severe blood loss after suffering a fractured skull.
Riley was jailed for two years at Northampton Crown Court after she admitted owning a dangerously out of control dog resulting in death at an earlier hearing.
Her mum Aucott was also jailed for two years after she admitted being a person in charge of a dog which caused injury resulting in the death of a child while dangerously out of control.
The judge, Mrs Justice Carr, said: “This was a tragic and totally avoidable incident. Bruiser was a large, strong and aggressive dog weighing some 33 kilograms.
“He should never have been living cooped up in a small house with a new baby, and the two of them should never have been left alone.
“The situation was compounded by the fact that, to the knowledge of both of you, you Susan Aucott had problems will alcohol.
“Claire Riley, you had bought Bruiser in about June 2012. Molly-Mae was born in March 2014. In June 2014 your partner was sent to prison for a substantial period of time.
“The cage for Bruiser was too small and too flimsy for him. He escaped without apparent difficulty in order to attack Molly Mae.
“Susan Aucott, you drank wine. On the evening in question, Susan Aucott fed Molly- Mae and settled her down to sleep in her Moses basket on the floor in the living room.
“At some stage you heard bruiser out of his cage. You then saw Bruiser in the living room. You say he managed to open the door himself.
“He launched an attack on Molly-Mae. At 10.23pm you called emergency services. Bruiser had to be subdued – he was ferocious and totally out of control.
“Molly-Mae was declared dead at the scene. There can be little doubt that Bruiser was a vicious and dangerous dog.
“A vet of 15 years’ experience described him as ‘one of the most aggressive dogs” that she had ever encountered.’
Riley, wearing a light brown, tight-fitting dress, broke down in tears and blew kisses to the public gallery and then kissed her mum as she was led to the cells.
Aucott, wearing a green top and black cardigan, remained emotionless as she was sentenced.
Bruiser attacked Molly-Mae at 10.30pm on October 3, 2014 at Riley’s home in Morning Star Road, Daventry, Northants.
Riley, who was 21 at the time, had popped out when Bruiser launched at the tot who was in the Moses basket in the front room of her three-bedroom semi.
Aucott, of Alfred Street, Northampton, tried to wrestle Bruiser off her granddaughter but sustained arm injuries in the struggle.
Ambulance crews rushed Molly-Mae to Northampton General Hospital but was pronounced dead at 11.08pm – less than 40 minutes after the attack.
Police also attended the house along with a vet who put Bruiser down at the scene.
The mutt was a powerfully-built five-stone American pit bull – banned in the UK since the early 90s under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
In October 2014, senior coroner for Northamptonshire, Anne Pember, said the family paid the “ultimate price” for owning the outlawed breed.
Prosecutor James House QC said: “Claire Riley left at about 8pm and left Susan Aucott and Molly-Mae in the living room.
“She let Bruiser and Pups out into the garden and then locked them in their crates.
“Bruiser was able to force open the bottom of the door and exit of his own volition.
“Having exited the crate, Bruiser somehow managed to open the door into the lounge, which opens inwards.
“He opened the door and entered the living room. Miss Aucott told the police this: ‘The next thing I knew he was in the living room. Molly-Mae was on the changing mat.
“‘He grabbed her by the head.’
“That attack was sustained, Miss Aucott was unable to bring Bruiser under control or remove Molly-Mae from the situation.
“She dialled 999 and reported a dog was attacking her baby granddaughter and reportedly stated it had killed the child.
“The first two police officers couldn’t gain access because of a chain across the door and because the dog was barking and snarling.
“They forced the door, pepper sprayed the dog driving him back into the kitchen and closed the door.
“In the living room Susan Aucott was lying the top of her granddaughter trying to stop the attack. It was too late.
“Molly-Mae was declared deceased by the doctor shortly after 11pm.
“Irrespective of the breed, the defendant believed him to be unsafe.
“When he was euthanised it took several people quite some time to do so, because of his behaviour.”
The court heard Aucott, an alcoholic, had warned Riley that Bruiser was jealous of Molly-Mae.
Mr House said: “Since the birth of Molly-Mae she had been kept away from Bruiser. They had not been introduced – he did not know her.
“Aucott said after the attack: ‘Bruiser had been funny with Molly-Mae, he had been jealous of her since the day Claire had her.
“Not once had he been near her. He’s a clever dog, I told Claire before. He’s jealous, he’s aggressive.”
Stephen Talbot Hadley, for Riley, said: “She effectively feels she’s punished on a daily basis. She visits her child’s grave on a daily basis and is finding it very hard to come to terms with.
“There was a miscarriage of another child at seven months and after that her mental health seriously deteriorated. She is now a high risk pregnancy.”
Micalia Williams, for Aucott, said: “There can be no greater punishment than what Miss Aucott has already suffered.
“To witness the death of her grandchild in such tragic circumstances and then to watch the impact of that on her daughter and extended family.
“There are feelings of guilt that she should have done more. Molly-Mae was the only positive thing in her life and she is gone.”
Last week Riley, who has split up from Molly-Mae’s father Derri Wotherspoon, 31, was rushed to hospital after a fracas with photographers outside the court.
Speaking after the case, James Allen, Head of the Complex Casework Unit for the CPS East Midlands said: “Sadly, the simple truth is that her death in October 2014 was entirely avoidable.
“Molly Mae’s death would not have happened if two of the people closest to her had acted, as any reasonable person would have done, and never allowed such an aggressive and dangerous dog to be in the same small house as a young and vulnerable child.
Neighbours claimed they had heard the “devil dogs” fighting “non-stop” for months before Molly-Mae was attacked and had even complained to the local council.
Daventry District Council were called to the property after receiving a complaint from a neighbour about the hounds but no further action was taken.
Two years before the tragedy, Riley hired a dog whisperer after another of her dogs, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Pups, caused £1,500 of damage to her flat.