Mother apologises to family over nine-year-old son’s death in dog attack

·3-min read
Frankie MacRitchie was fatally attacked by a dog  (PA Media)
Frankie MacRitchie was fatally attacked by a dog (PA Media)

The mother of a nine-year-old boy mauled to death by a dog has apologised to his family for her “senseless actions” in leaving the animal with her son.

Tawney Willis left her son Frankie MacRitchie alone in a caravan with a 45kg American bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier.

Frankie, from Plymouth, sustained fatal head injuries after being attacked by the dog, called Winston, in April 2019 at the Tencreek Holiday Park in Looe, Cornwall.

Addressing Frankie’s father Billy MacRitchie and grandmother Pauline Elford, Ms Willis said: “To Billy, Pauline and everyone, I am truly, truly sorry. I miss him every day and I know they do, and I know their heartbreak, mine does as well.

“I know nothing I will do can ever change what’s happened and I understand that. I am sorry for my senseless actions caused them so much heartache, I really am.

“From the bottom of my heart I just wish they would get some closure and I hope they will find some peace.”

Ms Willis later admitted a charge of child neglect and was jailed for two years. She has since been released from prison.

Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard Frankie had been staying in a caravan with his mother and her friend Sadie Totterdell, the owner of the dog.

They had all been out for the evening to the park’s social club and returned to the caravan around midnight.

 (PA Media)
(PA Media)

Frankie was left playing computer games while his mother and Ms Totterdell, along with the dog, joined friends in a neighbouring caravan to continue drinking.

Ms Willis said she had checked on her son around four or five times and on the last occasion, Winston followed her back to the caravan where Frankie was.

“I was going back and forth checking Frankie was alright. I checked around four or five times and the last time the dog followed out of the caravan door,” she told the court.

“I remember I looked at Sadie and said, ‘Is he alright?,’ not meaning to go in the caravan but outside, and she said he’s fine.

“When I went into the caravan the dog followed me in and Frankie asked me if the dog could stay in and I asked Sadie, ‘Is he alright’ and she said, ‘Yeah, take Winnie, Winnie loves kids.’

“I just didn’t think anything of it, and I left them there.”

The court heard Frankie had been left alone with the dog unsupervised for over an hour before Ms Willis returned to the caravan at around 4.30am and discovered her son lying on the kitchen floor covered in blood.

“The dog was sat on the sofa just looking at me,” she said.

Breaking down in tears, she said: “I was screaming, I remember crouching over Frankie, and he was on his front and I turned him over.

“I remember screaming and screaming. I was there ages screaming I didn’t think anybody could hear me, it felt like a lifetime.

“I was crouching over him and held him in my arms. It wasn’t immediate that people came. I was screaming for a long time before people came.”

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

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

The inquest continues.

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