A 54-year-old man allegedly murdered in an XL bully attack weighed only eight stone and stood “no chance” against a big dog, a friend has said.
Ian Langley, originally from Liverpool but living in Shiney Row near Sunderland, suffered severe neck injuries in an attack on Tuesday evening and died in hospital.
Northumbria Police said the owner, aged 44, was originally arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm but was re-arrested on suspicion of murder.
It is understood Mr Langley was walking his Patterdale puppy, Beau, when the fatal alleged attack happened.
The puppy bolted but was rescued and is now being looked after by a friend of his, according to reports.
Michael Kennedy, 64, also from Shiney Row, knew Mr Langley for more than 20 years, and said many people knew him simply as “Scouse”.
He said: “He was a really nice lad, he came from Liverpool, he was a lovable rogue you might say.
“That lad must have been eight stone, he seemed malnourished and was not looking after himself.
“I was worried about him, telling him to look after himself and be careful.
“He used to go to the church every Tuesday, where people go to help each other out.
“My mam goes and every time I saw him he would ask after her. He was a very caring fella.
“The reason I am speaking to you (the press) is because I don’t want his name to be tarnished, he doesn’t deserve that. I am heartbroken.
“He never did any harm, he was not a violent person, he wasn’t a hard man, he wasn’t the type to go looking for trouble.
“He was really thin, he would have no chance against a big dog.”
Police shot the dog “to ensure the safety of the public” and took another dog, also believed to be an XL bully, into custody.
In a video shared on social media, an armed police officer stood on ladders to reach over a fence into a yard and shoot the animal from the road.
“While further assessment will be carried out, officers believe the dog to be an XL bully breed,” Northumbria Police said.
The XL bully owner called for help and rang the police, a local resident said.
“I heard noises and thought it was people fighting,” she said. “I looked out of the window and all of a sudden (the owner) was shouting ‘help, help’.
“I went out and the guy was on the floor bleeding.”
She said the injured man’s neck was badly injured.
She said he got up and then collapsed and locals tried to help with first aid until the emergency services arrived.
Forensic officers were working at the scene, putting blue plastic sheeting down at two spots on a grassy area where the attack was thought to have happened.
An officer was seen photographing a back yard behind a fence which had Beware of the Dog signs.
Linda Blyth, who lives in Maple Terrace, said she saw paramedics working on the injured man’s neck.
Police responded in large numbers and officers told residents to go inside.
She told the PA news agency: “We were told, ‘go in, shut your doors’ and then I heard the gun shot.”
“I don’t know what set the dog off, everyone is speculating,” she said.
Speaking of the paramedics, she said: “It was awful to see, you don’t expect it on your doorstep.”
She said she could hear their heart monitor beeping as the man was stretchered past.
A friend of hers had just visited the XL bully that lunchtime and told her: “It’s soft as clarts.”
A local dog owner, who asked not to be named, frequently saw two XL bullies being walked in the area.
He saw the man’s throat had been injured.
He said: “I heard a girl screaming for the police, saying the man was dying.
“The man got put in the ambulance and they were working on him here for about 10 minutes before they set off.
“I have seen the two dogs before, they are well known in the area, an older one and a younger one.”
After police officially named the dead man, Detective Chief Inspector Angela Hudson said: “Our thoughts remain with Ian’s family and loved ones, as we continue to support them at this tragic time.
“Our investigation is ongoing, as we look to get answers for Ian’s family around what has happened.
“I would urge any further witnesses or anyone with information to contact police as soon as possible.
“Your help could prove vital in this case.
“While our investigation is at an early stage, we do believe those involved were known to each other, and there is no wider risk to the public.
“I would also continue to ask people not to speculate about the incident online, including on social media, while enquiries continue.”
The latest attack comes as the Government looks to ban American XL bully dogs in response to a series of attacks.