A grandmother was savaged to death by two dogs as she attempted to intervene between fighting puppies, the daughter of the victim has said.
Essex Police said 68-year-old Esther Martin, from Woodford Green in London, was attacked at a property in Hillman Avenue in Jaywick on Saturday afternoon by what have been described as the XL bully breed of banned dogs.
Police arrived “within minutes”, but despite the efforts of six officers as well as by members of the public, Ms Martin – who was visiting her 11-year-old grandson – died at the scene.
Neighbours have described hearing “horrific” screaming from the property lasting 10 minutes.
Chief Superintendent Glen Pavelin, of Essex Police, told reporters outside Clacton police station there was a “familial relationship” between the victim and a 39-year-old man arrested on suspicion of dangerous dog offences.
He said: “I want to express my condolences to her family and friends, and we’ve got specially-trained officers supporting them.”
The victim’s daughter, Sonia Martin, has said the dogs were of the XL bully breed – which was banned at the start of this month – with a total of six puppies and two adults in the property.
Ms Martin, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said that her mother had previously expressed concerns about the “dangerous and aggressive dogs”.
She told the BBC: “There were adult XL bully dogs in the property, and my mum had raised concerns to the owners about them being dangerous and quite aggressive. There were also six puppies.”
She said she had been informed that the puppies had started fighting and her mother had been told by the dogs’ owner to “put a broom in among them, to distract them”.
She said: “That’s when she was attacked.”
Ms Martin said that her mother, who was retired but had worked at a Tesco store, had been “getting her life back together” following the death of another daughter two years ago.
She added: ”It’s killed our mum and it’s killed our children’s grandmother. I’m getting married in a couple of years and my mum won’t be at that.”
Paying tribute to officers and local residents, Mr Pavelin said: “When six police officers entered the house, their priority was, as always, to keep their community safe.
“Their unflinching bravery and professionalism ensured that there is no ongoing threat to the people of Essex, both dogs were destroyed inside the house.
“I would also like to thank local people who tried to get into the house to help Esther Martin, you should be proud.”
Mr Pavelin declined to comment on the breed of the dogs which had been destroyed by officers.
He said: “I know there is speculation about the breed of the dogs involved and we are working with experts to establish this.
“I would ask you not to speculate, we will establish the facts and we will keep the community of Jaywick updated.”
He added he had not been informed of any information about previous complaints made about the dogs involved in the incident.
Mr Pavelin said the suspect, who is from Jaywick, remained in custody for questioning.
Lucy Shaw, 38, who lives in a property behind the address, told the PA news agency she heard screaming for about 10 minutes.
She said: “We went out into the garden and it was all quiet and then we heard dogs barking, and then we heard someone screaming.
“It seemed like the screaming of a child. That went on for about 10 minutes.
“We went back in after a while because it sounded horrific.”
Mike Coleman, 74, who lives a few doors down, said he saw a man come down the road to the address and start shouting.
He said: “He is really shouting and hallowing, he was really, really loud. Then he starts whacking at the windows. He appeared panicked.
“He said ‘phone the police’. My wife phoned them but they said they had someone else on the phone.
“Minutes later the police came – two cars, then three then five, and then they blocked the road off.
“I heard the shots of them being destroyed, then that was it.”
His wife Julie Coleman, 67, said: “When I went down to see what was going on, he said there was a lady inside the property who was being attacked by two dogs.
“He said he had got a phone call to go and check on this lady.
“He was very stressed, very agitated, very verbal and quite concerned.
“He was hallowing and shouting ‘they’re XL bullies’, but I just don’t know (what breed they were).”