Pensioner-attack police dog had bitten 10 people previously, inquest told

A police dog which repeatedly bit a frail pensioner in her own home had bitten 10 people, including one on the face, when it worked for another force, an inquest heard.

The officer who organised the transfer of seven-stone German Shepherd Dano to Cleveland Police said had he known about the facial bite he may not have even travelled to Hampshire and Thames Valley Police’s kennels to view the dog.

Irene Collins, 73, was repeatedly bitten in her kitchen in Penrith Road, Middlesbrough, in July 2014 after Dano, under the control of his handler Pc Mark Baines, had carried out a sweep of her garden as officers searched for a suspected drug dealer.

The pensioner had lung cancer and emphysema and died four days later in hospital.

Retired dog handler and instructor Mark Robson, a retired Pc, said he had been recommended the dog who was no longer needed due to the merger of Hampshire and Thames Valley’s dog units.

He was “very impressed” by Dano when he viewed and tested the dog, and signed papers that day to transfer him to his force.

Mr Robson, who had 20 years experience with the police dog unit, said he was not shown paperwork detailing Dano’s history of biting.

Assistant Coroner Karin Welsh read out details of 11 biting incidents involving Dano prior to him joining Cleveland.

On one occasion he bit someone in the face during a public order operation involving Crystal Palace fans at Reading railway station in 2010.

He also bit his kennel maid or handler when he was being given flea treatment, and on another occasion he attacked a dog after bolting out of a van, straight past his handler.

The dog walker wrote to the police to complain, expressing concern that the unit was deploying an “aggressive” dog.

Mr Robson said the rest of the biting incidents appeared to have happened during lawful, operational deployments when Dano was instructed to detain suspects.

He added: “The bite to the face – had I known about that, I suspect had I relayed that to the inspector, we may not have even gone to view the dog in the first place.”

Mr Robson said he would have expected to have been told about Dano’s history and agreed it would have been prudent to ask to see the paperwork.

Dano’s performance at Cleveland prior to biting Mrs Collins was “outstanding”, he said.

The coroner asked if he was surprised to hear about the incident at her home.

He replied: “Yeah, I was horrified.”

On Tuesday Pc Baines told the jury he called Dano off from biting Mrs Collins, got the dog away into the hall but he backed out of his collar and escaped to bite her on the leg again.

Asked to comment on that incident, Mr Robson said: “It should never have happened.”

The inquest jury also heard medical evidence from paramedics and hospital staff about how the pensioner required skin grafts to the bites on her arm and leg, and surgery to repair her broken forearm.

She was conscious when she was brought into hospital and initially made a good recovery from surgery.

But her health deteriorated over subsequent days and she died with her family by her bedside.

Dano was put down after the incident.

The inquest, which started on Monday, continues.

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