Killer dog 'went for girl's throat'
The mother of a little girl mauled to death in her home has told how the animal went straight for the four-year-old's throat.
The Aylestone bulldog-type family pet killed Lexi Branson after attacking her in the lounge of their two-bedroomed flat in November 2013.
A post mortem revealed Lexi died from facial injuries and from the dog preventing the little girl breathing, during its attack.
The dog - called Mulan - had been collected from a kennels for strays by Lexi's mother Jodi Hudson a few weeks before.
But unknown to wardens, the dog had gone through the hands of several owners since 2007, a police investigation later revealed.
Mulan was also advertised by the dog-rehoming kennels as "better suited to a home without young children", because of its size, however staff described the animal's temperament as "very friendly".
Mulan's last owner, from Leicester, had the dog three months before lying to a council warden by telling them it was a stray, so it would be taken away.
Detective Sergeant Kenny Henry, of Leicestershire Police, said while the dog had seemed "placid" it had attacked the previous owner's other dog in the garden.
That owner also told the RSPCA he was "concerned for the safety of his own children" following that attack.
But he had then lied about owning the dog, telling the city council dog warden it was a stray - a decision which DS Henry put down to one "of expense".
Warden Jodie Barlow, who collected the animal, said the dog had "seemed ok".
But a note from the warden service to the kennels written when Mulan was handed over, stated the dog: "Looks like she has been fighting, with marks all over her face."
Ms Hudson, at the time living in Rowena Court in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire, described the dog as "very gentle", and said it had never shown any aggression to her or her little girl prior to the attack.
But on Tuesday, November 5, 2013, with Lexi unwell and off school, watching TV with her mother, the dog "just went up on all fours and just stared at Lexi", Ms Hudson said.
"I tapped her bum and said 'Mulan, no', and as I did she went for Lexi.
"She went straight for her throat, then around her mouth."
Describing the desperate moments as the attack unfolded, Ms Hudson told how she struggled to get the white and brindle dog off her daughter, even trying to pull the animal's forelegs apart.
A neighbour, alerted by screams of "terror" from next door, also hit the powerful dog with a rolled-up blanket to no effect and then dialled 999.
Meanwhile, Ms Hudson ran to the kitchen where she "grabbed the largest knife I could find" before repeatedly stabbing the dog.
She managed to get Lexi outside, where she began CPR.
Paramedics arrived a short while afterwards, and the little girl was rushed to Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre, however she could not be saved.
Home Office pathologist Michael Biggs told the inquest Lexi had also suffered injuries to her hands, indicating she had tried to defend herself for a brief period.
Ms Hudson, who had never owned a dog herself, first found the animal advertised online by Willow Tree Kennels, at Barrow-on-Soar, Leicestershire.
Asked by senior coroner Trevor Kirkman why she had wanted that type of dog, she said: "I just liked the look of them."
She then took her daughter to see the dog at the kennels.
Ms Hudson said when she arrived there was a notice about the dog which read "not to be around toddlers", but querying this with staff was told that was down to the bulldog's size and "a tendency to jump up".
The dog was placid during the visit, Ms Hudson said, with Lexi "stroking the dog".
She returned some days later, and paid £50 to take the animal home.
Ms Hudson said that both back at the flat and on walks, the dog was "absolutely fine" with Lexi.
The little girl would "stroke her and give her cuddles", said Ms Hudson telling the coroner the animal had given her no cause for alarm before the deadly attack.
Kennels staff member Sammi Pestell, who carried out a temperament assessment on the dog, said Mulan was "very sweet natured," with a "lovely temperament".
Asked by Mr Kirkman if she was "a very strong dog", she replied saying Mulan was "strong - but we could handle her".
However, she later told the inquest that the dog pulled on the lead and "wanted to take you where she wanted to go".
Sarah Draper, who also worked at the re-homing kennels, said Mulan was in season when they took her in.
But asked by the coroner if there was "any sign of aggressiveness" in the dog, she replied: "None whatsoever. Mulan was neither muzzled or sedated."
Mr Kirkman heard several staff members from the kennels, all of whom told the hearing they had no formal training in dog handling but relied on experience.
The inquest at Rutland and North Leicestershire Coroner's Court was adjourned, and continues tomorrow when a verdict is expected.