Clifford Clarke death: Women jailed over man 'eaten alive' by dog

  • Published
Clifford ClarkeImage source, Merseyside police
Image caption,
Clifford Clarke was mauled to death in the garden of his home

Two women who admitted allowing a dog to maul a 79-year-old man to death in his garden have been jailed for a year.

Hayley Sulley, 30, and Della Woods, 29, both of Liverpool were charged under the Dangerous Dogs Act, after retired hospital porter Clifford Clarke died.

In May 2013, Mr Clarke was "eaten alive" by the dog, which had not been fed for 45 hours, when he opened his back door while he cooked a meal.

The dog also bit the end of a police gun, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Judge Mark Brown said Mr Clarke's death was "entirely avoidable" and he was "literally eaten alive" as he died in "truly horrific circumstances".

Image caption,
Neighbours said the dog appeared to be eating Mr Clarke's arm

Sulley, of Richard Kelly Close, and Woods, of Swallowhurst Crescent, - who were partners - admitted allowing their dog to enter a non-public place and subsequently cause injury in Richard Kelly Close.

'Foaming at mouth'

The pair had left the 5st (31kg) dog, known as Charlie, in their garden without water and shade while they went to a barbecue.

Neighbours reported the animal, a Presa Canario and bull mastiff cross-breed, was foaming at the mouth and one said it appeared to be eating Mr Clarke's arm.

The court heard the "wild" and "out of control" dog sank its teeth into the 79-year-old's arm and dragged him around his garden; chewing his one arm off at the elbow and mauling the other.

Neighbour Michael Rankin heard Mr Clarke shout "get off me" and ran out to see the dog "pulling his arm off", the court was told.

Mr Clarke died from multiple injuries and blood loss.

Judge Brown said Sulley and Woods were fortunate not to have been charged with manslaughter.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Della Woods (left) and Hayley Sulley left their dog while they attended a barbecue

The dog was so aggressive it bit at the end of an armed police officer's gun and was shot twice by a police marksman, the court was told.

The women also pleaded guilty to three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog at an earlier hearing and have been banned from keeping dogs.

Both bull mastiff and Presa Canario dogs are large powerful breeds but they are not banned in the UK.

'Stood no chance'

In May, tougher penalties were introduced for dog owners in England and Wales who allow their pets to attack people.

Judge Brown said: "I hope that the recent changes to the law will be of some small comfort to Mr Clarke's family.

"Figures released recently show that the number of dangerous dogs seized by the police have risen 50% in just two years in some police forces around the country."

The two women admitted the charges before the changes came into force and the new rules cannot be applied retrospectively.

The maximum sentence the judge could impose was two years.

Image caption,
Outside court Mr Clarke's brother Kenny called for dogs to be muzzled

Mr Clarke's brother Kenny's witness impact statement was read out in court.

It said: "My brother did not deserve this. It must have been the most horrific death in peacetime.

"While we cannot bring my brother back, I think we should make sure this should not happen again."

The women wrote a letter to the judge where they expressed their shame, sadness and "genuine remorse", the court heard

After the hearing, Mr Clarke's brother Kenny said: "If they can afford the dog, they can afford a muzzle."

In a statement after the court case, Det Ch Insp Julie Milburn said: "Clifford Clarke, an army veteran, stood no chance when he was attacked at his home.

"There is no doubt that Mr Clarke's death was a direct consequence of the neglect of this dog."

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.