St Helen's dog attack: 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch killed by dog which had only been with family for a week

A 17-month-old girl who died following a dog attack at her home in Blackbrook, in St Helens, on Monday has been named by Merseyside Police as Bella-Rae Birch.

The toddler died in hospital of her injuries following the attack in Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside, on Monday afternoon.

One resident said: “We pulled up from school and heard screaming. I just ran over to try to help and started CPR until the paramedics took over.”

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The neighbour, who is due to go to university to train as a paramedic, said the child’s parents were “hysterical”.

Police and forensic investigators outside the house in St Helens
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She added: “I didn’t see the dog, I was just focusing on helping the baby.”

Another neighbour who helped to give CPR said: “The parents doted on the children. It’s too upsetting to say anything else.”

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Neighbour Joanne Matthews, 53, said: “She was such a beautiful little girl, toddling about.

“I’d see the family in passing, just to say hello, and they were always very pleasant.”

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A woman lays flowers at a house in St Helens after a 17-month-old girl died after being attacked by a dog.

Ms Matthews said she had seen the ambulance outside the house on Bidston Avenue at about 3.50pm on Monday and then about 10 police cars, including a van, arrive.

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She said: “I saw them bring the dog out. I couldn’t tell what breed it was but from the back it looked like a Staffordshire bull terrier or pitbull.”

Merseyside Police said the dog, which has been humanely destroyed, had only been with the family a week.

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It will be subject to further forensic examinations to determine its breed and whether it is or is not a legal breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), police said.

The scene at Bidston Avenue, St Helens
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Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she came home from the shops at about 4.30pm and the area was filled with police.

She said: “My friend gave me a lift and I said to her there’s got to have been a murder.

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“The mum was on the field at the front of the house crying, she was hysterical.

“It is usually very quiet here and safe for children, but when you hear something like this has happened it is so distressing.”

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Detective inspector Lisa Milligan said: “This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the child’s family at this devastating time.

“The little girl’s parents and wider family are absolutely devastated, and our specialist family liaison officers are providing them with support at this horrendous time.

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“Whilst we are in the very early stages of the investigation into this extremely tragic incident we can confirm that the dog was only bought by the family a week ago and officers are working to identify the previous owners of the dog concerned and establish its history.

“Our officers will remain on Bidston Avenue this evening and in the coming days to provide reassurance to the local community and we will work tirelessly to establish the full circumstances.

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“If you were in the Bidston Avenue area this afternoon and witnessed anything, or have any information about the dog in question, then please come forward speak to one of our officers.”

On Tuesday morning two police officers were stationed outside the house, which was cordoned off with police tape.

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Anyone with information can contact Merseyside Police on Twitter @MerPolCC, or Merseyside Police Contact Centre on Facebook, with reference number 22000196837.

They can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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