Baby mauling ‘most horrendous’ death in coroner’s career

A CORONER has said the death of an 11-month-old girl mauled by a pit bull terrier-type dog was the “most horrendous” he had seen in more than 20 years doing the job.

Ava-Jayne Corless suffered “unsurvivable” multiple injuries inflicted by nine-stone Snoop as she slept alone in the bedroom of her mother’s then boyfriend’s home in Blackburn in February.

Her mother, Chloe King, 21, and her ex-partner, Lee Wright, 27, said they had fallen asleep on the settee downstairs and believed Mr Wright’s dog was in the kitchen blocked in by a speaker and a golf bag stand.

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Both were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and child neglect before they were bailed and later told they would not face those charges.

An inquest heard that police considered Miss King to be “a victim” in the case following questioning but did pass a file on Mr Wright to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging advice.

Officers called to the scene in Emily Street on the late evening of February 10 noticed a strong smell of cannabis in the front room.

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Peter Simm told the hearing that a “cannabis cultivation set-up” was found with 11 plants in a second bedroom, along with associated drugs paraphernalia. Weapons including ornamental swords, knuckledusters and a cricket bat were also seized.

Blood testing showed Mr Wright was under the influence of cannabis at the time of the toddler’s death. Miss King tested negative for alcohol and drugs in her system.

Returning his verdict, coroner Michael Singleton said the facts as described met the definition in coronial law of an accident, but he said he did not find the word appropriate in this case and to use it would be “an affront” to the memory of Ava-Jayne.

He said: “I also extend sympathies to those people directly involved in the aftermath of these most horrific events.

“I recognise that those circumstances were life changing. I recognise that every death I deal with represents a personal tragedy for someone, but in more than 20 years of doing this job I have to say the circumstances of the death of Ava-Jayne represent by far the most horrendous that I have had experience of.”

The inquest was told that Mr Wright, who did not attend the hearing, is awaiting criminal proceedings next year on charges of possessing a banned breed of dog and being concerned in the supply of cannabis.