Girl attack dog 'was park stray'
A rescue dog that mauled a four-year-old girl to death was a stray picked up by the local authorities in a park months earlier.
Lexi Branson died in hospital after being attacked by bulldog Mulan in the living room of her home in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire, on Tuesday.
Her mother Jodi Hudson frantically tried to pull the dog off her young daughter during the sustained attack and ended up stabbing the animal to death with a kitchen knife in the flat in Rowena Court.
Lexi, who had been off school sick, was taken to Nottingham's Queen Medical Centre but doctors were unable to save her following the unprovoked attack.
Police said the rescue dog had been with the family for just two months after they got the animal from Willow Rehoming Centre, which shares a site with Orchard Kennels in Barrow- upon-Soar, Leicestershire.
The rehoming centre has a contract with Leicester City Council to provide kennelling for stray dogs.
In a statement, a Leicester City Council spokesman said: "Like all councils, we have a duty to collect stray dogs reported to us, and we employ dog wardens to do this.
"We have a contract with Willow Tree Rehoming Centre to provide kennelling for these stray dogs for the statutory seven day period.
"If the dog remains unclaimed after seven days, ownership of the animal is passed on to the contractors, who then take responsibility for rehoming the dog or putting it down.
"This particular dog was picked up from a local park as a stray and handed over to the kennels in August.
"The police are notified of any dogs suspected of being dangerous or on the list of prohibited breeds, and these are not considered for rehoming."
A spokesman for Willow Tree Rehoming Centre said the dog had come from them but did not want to comment further, due to the investigation.
Police said the bulldog was not listed under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dog Act, and stressed officers were not treating the incident as a criminal investigation.
The history of the dog, which is thought to be aged six to eight years, is part of the investigation.
Detective Superintendent David Sandall, who is overseeing the investigation, said: "The flat remains cordoned-off to allow for a forensic examination and we are continuing to investigate the circumstances leading to the tragic death of Lexi and this will include the history of the dog.
"The family have understandably been left devastated by the events of yesterday and have asked that they and their friends are not contacted by the media and we request that their wishes are respected at this difficult time."
In a statement, Ms Hudson and Lexi's grandmother Kerry Hudson said: "There's been a tragedy in the family. Lexi was a bubbly, bright little girl. She fought for her life from the moment she was born as she was born three months prematurely. She's been taken from us so tragically.
"She will be sadly missed, she will be our shining star in the sky and she will never be forgotten."
David Williams, headteacher of Christchurch and St Peter's Church of England Primary School in Mountsorrel, where Lexi had recently started, also paid tribute to the youngster.
He said: "The whole of our school community has been devastated and saddened by the news of Lexi's death.
"The school is one big family and we are all in our different ways feeling the loss.
"We're supporting our pupils and staff and said prayers based on what our children wanted to be included.
"The children have been told to speak to an adult in school if they are feeling especially upset and we have trained bereavement counsellors on site.
"We're also asking parents to inform us if they are concerned about their children to enable us to provide support.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Lexi's family at this extremely difficult time."
Friends of the family also paid tribute to the youngster.
Glennis Goddard, who has lived in the street for 27 years, said of Lexi: "She was a sweet little thing and used to run round here on a bike and knock on my windows.
"She used to play with our cats, outside. She wasn't very big, only a little thin thing. It's a terrible shock."
Ms Goddard's partner and carer, Oliver Temperell, said: "She had a little pink scooter and she'd go round and round the flats.
"She'd come up to our flat, tap on the window.
"She was very happy, everything was fun - as it is when you're a four-year-old."
Arthur Nash, another neighbour, said: "Everybody is in shock at the moment. When I saw an ambulance pull up, I thought it was an old lady on the court who had had a heart attack, and then the neighbour came up and said she had been killed by the dog."
Angela McGlynn, mother of four-year-old John-Paul Massey, who died in Liverpool in November 2009 after he was savaged by his uncle's dog, said the girl's death raised painful memories.
"It brings everything back - straight back to day one all over again," she told ITV Daybreak.
"I would like to send out my sincere sympathies to Lexi's family because I know exactly what they are going through."
She renewed her calls for all dogs to be muzzled around children under 12.
"My campaign is to raise pet awareness, to let people know that these family pets do just turn the way they do and it's not just about breed, or just the dogs on the dangerous dogs list," she said.
"The Government are putting some steps in place... but we can't just rely on the Government - parents and adults have to take steps too."
A post-mortem examination is due to take place tomorrow.