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Mum and granny jailed over killing of baby girl by pitbull

Main picture, Susan Aucott attempts to hide her face outside court. Right, a police picture of Aucott. Main picture by PA
Alexander Britton, Press Association

THE mother and grandmother of a six-month-old baby girl mauled to death by a "vicious" American pitbull who saw the toddler as "prey" have been jailed.

The dog, named Bruiser, picked up Molly-Mae Wotherspoon by the head and launched a "sustained attack" at her home in Daventry on October 3 2014.

The baby sustained injuries including a fractured skull, bites to every limb and four puncture wounds to her brain.

She was pronounced dead at the scene at 11.08pm and later taken to hospital where her cause of death was given as severe blood loss.

Northampton Crown Court heard Molly-Mae was being looked after by Susan Aucott (56) while her mother Claire Riley (23) went for a night out with friends.

Opening the prosecution case, James House QC told the court Aucott dialled 999, telling operators the dog had killed Molly-Mae as the attack took place.

The court heard that Bruiser, who weighed 33kg, was kept in a cage alongside a Staffordshire bull terrier called Pups and escaped "without apparent difficulty".

At around 10.30pm the dog made his way out of the "flimsy" cage in the kitchen and opened the door into the living room, where Molly-Mae was on a changing mat.

Mr House said: "The attack was sustained. Susan Aucott simply was unable to bring Bruiser under control or remove Molly-Mae from the situation.

"He was an aggressive and dangerous dog and should not have been left in the house with a person who could not control him."

Police were forced to use pepper spray to subdue Bruiser for emergency services to gain access to the property and Mr House said it later took "several people" and a "significant amount of time" to euthanise the dog.

Claire Riley, 23, (behind umbrella) arrives at Northampton Crown Court to be sentenced after she pleaded guilty to offences related to the death of six-month-old Molly Mae Wotherspoon. Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Aucott, who had a history of problems with alcohol abuse, admitted to having drunk a glass of wine on the night of the attack, and the court heard Riley was "very upset and accused her mother of being drunk in charge of her child" when she found out Molly-Mae was dead.

The prosecution said Riley was aware of how dangerous Bruiser could be - and four months before the fatal attack she warned off an estate agent from playing with the dog.

She told the man who was valuing the property in Morning Star Road: "Seriously, I wouldn't. It's not worth the risk."

The court heard Riley, who is four and a half months pregnant, was told to look after Bruiser while Molly-Mae's father, Derri Wotherspoon, served a prison sentence, but rarely walked him.

Steven Talbot Hadley, mitigating for Riley, said: "It's extremely difficult to accept that her poor decision-making had led to her baby's death and that she finds it very hard to come to terms with it to this day. She is being punished on a daily basis."

Urging the judge to suspend any prison sentence, he added that Riley visits Molly-Mae's grave daily and that she has suffered an "unimaginable tragedy".

Micalia Williams, for Aucott, also urged a suspended sentence, adding: "No-one, sober or otherwise, could have stopped the attack."

Riley, of Merrydale Square, Northampton, and Aucott, of Alfred Street in the town, were each sentenced to two years in prison.

Mrs Justice Carr told the pair they will serve half of their sentence in prison and the remainder on licence. She banned them from owning a dog for 10 years.

Riley sobbed as the judge passed sentence while Aucott showed no emotion as they were taken down.

The judge said: "This was a tragic and totally avoidable incident. Bruiser was a large, strong and aggressive dog weighing some 33kg.

"He should never have been living cooped up in a small house with a new baby and the two of them should never have been left alone by Claire Riley in charge of someone such as Susan Aucott.

"The cage for Bruiser was too small and too flimsy for him. Indeed, he escaped it without apparent difficulty in order to attack Molly-Mae.

"There can be little doubt that Bruiser was a vicious and dangerous dog. He has been described by various professional vets as incredibly aggressive. A vet of 15 years' experience described him as one of the most aggressive dogs that she had ever encountered."

The judge told Riley: "The victim was a baby and in this case wholly reliant on you for her care and protection.

"Your mother would never have been a match for Bruiser."

James Allen, head of the Complex Casework Unit for East Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Molly-Mae's death was a tragedy for all concerned. Sadly, the simple truth is that her death in October 2014 was entirely avoidable.

"Molly-Mae's death would not have happened if two of the people closest to her had acted, as any reasonable person would have done, and never allowed such an aggressive and dangerous dog to be in the same small house as a young and vulnerable child."

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