Schoolboy, nine, was mauled to death by dog when his mother left him alone in a caravan

A nine-year-old boy was mauled to death by a family friend’s dog after being left alone in a caravan with the seven-stone animal, an inquest heard.

Frankie MacRitchie, from Plymouth, received fatal head injuries after being attacked by the American bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier in April 2019. 

Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard the boy had been left alone in a caravan with the seven-stone dog named Winston, while his mother Tawney Willis drank and took drugs in a nearby caravan.

Frankie had been staying in the caravan at Tencreek Holiday Park in Looe, Cornwall with his mother, Tawney Willis, and her friend Sadie Totterdell, who owned Winston, in April 2019. 

Willis left her son with the dog for two-and-a-half hours while she partied with Totterdell in the adjacent caravan. 

The pair got drunk and Willis also admitted taking cocaine, Truro Crown Court heard previously. 

The inquest concluded that Frankie had died from blood loss caused by multiple bites after being left alone with the dog, and had injuries that showed the schoolboy had tried to fight off the animal. 

Frankie MacRitchie (pictured), from Plymouth, received fatal head injuries after being attacked by the 45kg American bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier in April 2019

Frankie MacRitchie (pictured), from Plymouth, received fatal head injuries after being attacked by the 45kg American bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier in April 2019

Frankie MacRitchie (pictured), from Plymouth, received fatal head injuries after being attacked by the 45kg American bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier in April 2019 

The boy, nine, was left alone in a caravan in the Tencreek Holiday Park in Looe, Cornwall, with the dog named Winston, while his mother Tawney Willis and friend Sadie Totterdell (above) drank and took drugs in a nearby caravan

The boy, nine, was left alone in a caravan in the Tencreek Holiday Park in Looe, Cornwall, with the dog named Winston, while his mother Tawney Willis and friend Sadie Totterdell (above) drank and took drugs in a nearby caravan

Frankie's mother Tawney Willis (pictured outside Truro Crown Court), 31, and Sadie Totterdell, along with other friends, were drinking and listening to music in a separate caravan at the time of the attack

Frankie's mother Tawney Willis (pictured outside Truro Crown Court), 31, and Sadie Totterdell, along with other friends, were drinking and listening to music in a separate caravan at the time of the attack

The boy, nine, was left alone in a caravan in the Tencreek Holiday Park in Looe, Cornwall, with the dog named Winston, while his mother Tawney Willis (right) and friend Sadie Totterdell (left) drank and took drugs in a nearby caravan

Ms Todderdell had rented the caravan from April 7 for a holiday and was joined by Frankie and his mother on April 11, the inquest heard.

The next day, Ms Totterdell brought Winston to the caravan and that evening, they went out to the park’s social club before returning at about midnight.

Ms Willis and Ms Totterdell then joined friends in a neighbouring caravan where they continued drinking, leaving Frankie alone in the caravan with Winston.

Friends said Ms Willis left the caravan a couple of times to check on Frankie, but the first she became aware of the incident was when she heard screaming. 

Frankie bled to death after sustaining 54 injuries, with the most serious to his head and neck, during the attack in the early hours. 

After the incident Winston, who had previously bitten another child, was seized by police and destroyed.

Friend Jordan Pearce told the hearing: ‘We were all sat in our caravan when Tawney went out to check and I could hear something, so I turned the music down and didn’t hear anything.

‘We put the music back on and heard a scream and she literally ran in through the door and that’s when we knew.’

His partner Cheryl Crocker added: ‘Tawney came running in screaming. Tawney kept screaming and screaming and she needed to find Frankie’s nan.’ 

Mr Pearce said that after the attack, Ms Totterdell fled the caravan park, taking Winston with her.

The inquest concluded Frankie had died from blood loss caused by multiple bites after being left alone with the dog. Pictured: Totterdell with a similar dog to the one that attacked Frankie

The inquest concluded Frankie had died from blood loss caused by multiple bites after being left alone with the dog. Pictured: Totterdell with a similar dog to the one that attacked Frankie

The inquest concluded Frankie had died from blood loss caused by multiple bites after being left alone with the dog. Pictured: Totterdell with a similar dog to the one that attacked Frankie

The nine-year-old (pictured) had been staying in the caravan at the holiday park with his mother and her friend Sadie Totterdell, who owned Winston

The nine-year-old (pictured) had been staying in the caravan at the holiday park with his mother and her friend Sadie Totterdell, who owned Winston

The nine-year-old (pictured) had been staying in the caravan at the holiday park with his mother and her friend Sadie Totterdell, who owned Winston 

‘I remember Sadie coming towards our caravan and saying, ‘What do I do? I’m going to take him and kill him’,’ he said.

Mr Pearce said Ms Totterdell tried to put the dog into his caravan but he ‘kicked the dog out’, after which she disappeared and ‘no one knew where she went’.

Emergency services were alerted shortly before 5am on April 13, after Ms Willis returned to the caravan and discovered Frankie lying on the kitchen floor covered in blood.

Emergency first responders and paramedics arrived and attempted resuscitation, but Frankie was declared dead at 5.35am, the court heard. 

Dr Deborah Cook, a Home Office registered forensic pathologist, said Frankie had died from blood loss caused by multiple dog bites.

‘The wounds have the characteristics of dog bites in a mauling type of attack,’ she said. ‘The concentration of the injuries over the head and the neck is in keeping with the recognised behaviour of dogs in attack.’

Frankie had appeared to have suffered defensive bite wounds, so may well have attempted to fight off the attack, Dr Cook added.

Frankie had been born with a congenital heart condition and was prescribed warfarin for thinning his blood, but this was not a factor in his death.

Friends said Ms Willis left the caravan a couple of times to check on Frankie, but the first she became aware of the incident was when she heard screaming. Pictured: File image of a caravan at Tencreek Holiday Park

Friends said Ms Willis left the caravan a couple of times to check on Frankie, but the first she became aware of the incident was when she heard screaming. Pictured: File image of a caravan at Tencreek Holiday Park

Friends said Ms Willis left the caravan a couple of times to check on Frankie, but the first she became aware of the incident was when she heard screaming. Pictured: File image of a caravan at Tencreek Holiday Park

‘The injuries are so devastating and so extensive anyone, a child or adult, would have died from the blood loss,’ Dr Cook said.

‘Even if it occurred outside the front door of a large hospital, I doubt Frankie could have survived.’ 

In June last year, Ms Willis admitted a charge of child neglect and was jailed for two years. 

Ms Totterdell was jailed for three years, describing leaving Frankie alone with the ‘extremely powerful’ dog as ‘the height of folly’. She was also banned from keeping dogs for ten years.

In a statement read outside court in June 2020, Frankie MacRitchie’s family described him as a ‘special young boy’ who had a heart condition and should not have been left alone. 

‘As Frankie’s family, nothing will ever be enough, no sentence will ever be long enough,’ his aunt Danielle MacRitchie said.

‘Not today, not tomorrow, not ever will we as a family forgive them for leaving our boy in a caravan with a dog he hardly knew. Frankie was left alone to die in the most horrific way, beyond anyone’s imagination.’

The inquest continues.

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