Family of boy mauled to death by dog speak of 'devastating loss'
The family of a three-year-old boy who died after being attacked by a dog have spoken of their "devastating loss".
Dexter Neal died in hospital after being bitten at a property in Parker Way, Halstead, Essex, near his Ronald Road home, on Thursday.
A 29 -year-old woman arrested for allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control injuring a person, has been released on police bail.
Ashley Coe described Dexter as his "darling nephew".
In a post on Facebook he added: " I can't even begin to describe what state we are all in this is an absolutely devastating loss for my sister and her husband and there's nothing I can say to them."
"Agonising screams" were heard by a neighbour as the boy was attacked by the animal.
Phyllis Younger, 82, who has lived in Parker Way for 58 years, said she heard screaming at around 5.45pm, with emergency services arriving shortly afterwards.
She told the Press Association the screaming "did not go on for long" and she was sure they were from a child.
"Now I know what the scream was, it is absolutely awful," she said, adding: "It was like someone was in pain, definitely - agonising screams. It is terrible."
She said she thought the screams came from outside, adding: "I don't think I would have heard it as clearly if it had been in the house."
Blood could be seen on the floor of an outhouse at the property, behind the police cordon, including a spatter across a child's toy car, as forensics officers inspected the scene.
Essex Police said the dog - identified as an American bulldog - had been seized by officers and placed in kennels.
Neighbour Scott Nowell, 19, described what he saw on the street in the aftermath of the attack as "terrible scenes".
He told the BBC: "I could hear terrible screams and a man in the house going 'one, two, three, four' - like he was doing chest compressions.
"The mother was on the front garden, she was down on her knees distraught and covered in blood. The ambulance and the police then came and they took over.
"The dog got quickly taken away - it was terrible, terrible scenes. Everyone was out there trying to help."
A police cordon was put in place around the semi-detached property where the attack happened, with floral tributes left outside.
Shirley Diver, the mayor of Halstead Town Council, said of the little boy's death: "It is an absolute tragedy, the whole town will be completely shocked and devastated by this.
"It is such a terrible thing to happen anywhere, you just don't expect it to happen in your town. We are a close-knit community, everybody knows everybody."
The East of England Ambulance Service said an air ambulance was called to the scene, along with two rapid response vehicles, paramedics and an ambulance.
A spokesman said: "At the scene, a young child was treated for life-threatening injuries before being airlifted to Addenbrooke's Hospital (in Cambridge).
"Sadly, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the child has died. Our thoughts are with the family involved at this time."
Essex Police said family liaison officers have been deployed to support the family, adding: "We strongly request that their privacy is respected as this extremely difficult time."
Posting on Facebook, Jennifer Ralling said she heard the screams and ran to the scene with a man named Mark.
She added: "I'm devastated. I've known the family for years through the nursery. I remember when he was born.
"I thought we'd be able to help as we're both first aid trained but it was just so awful."
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said the Neal family's home in Ronald Road was extremely close to the address cordoned off by police in Parker Way.
"The garden backs on to theirs and both families had kids," he said.
Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, has urged a review of the Dangerous Dogs Act, saying it is "simply not effective".
He said the focus should be on owners rather than the animals themselves. Mr Rosindell's comments follow calls earlier this year from the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to look again at the legislation.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There are lots of breeds of dogs that can be just as dangerous as the ones listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act, so to get rid of this legislation to replace it with a more flexible form of regulation means that the police and local authorities could then focus on where there is a known dangerous dog or an irresponsible owner."
Mr Rosindell added it is not possible for authorities to check every dog and its owner " but certainly if there's one incident then that dog and that owner would then have to be checked and warned, and if there's a second incident, then the authorities may want to take action".