Mother ‘truly sorry’ for leaving 9-year-old son with American bulldog who mauled him to death

The mother of a nine-year-old boy who was killed by a dog apologised to his family for her “senseless actions” in leaving the animal alone with him.

Frankie Macritchie was attacked by the 45kg American bulldog Staffordshire bull terrier cross in a caravan in Cornwall in April 2019.

His mother Tawnee Willis, from Plymouth, was jailed for two years in June 2020 after admitting neglect.

She told the inquest she was “truly, truly sorry”.

“I know their heart breaks, mine does too, not to make it about me.

“I know nothing I can do will change what happened.

“I’m sorry my selfish actions have caused them so much heartache.

“From the bottom of my heart I wish they can find some closure and find some peace.”

Ms Willis added she had been unaware the dog had previously injured another person.

His owner, Sadie Totterdell from Plymouth, was also jailed for three years and banned from having a dog for 10 years after admitting to owning a “dangerously out of control” dog.

The five-year-old dog, known as Winston, was destroyed.

Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard Frankie had been staying in a caravan with his mother and her friend, Ms Totterdell, at Tencreek Holiday Park.

The two-day inquest heard he died from “devastating injuries” after the attack.

Ms Willis told the inquest she had been drinking with friends, while Frankie was alone in the caravan.

Ms Willis said she checked on her son four or five times during the night and the dog had followed her on the last occasion.

“Frankie asked me if the dog could stay,” she said.

She said she asked Ms Totterdell if it was OK and Ms Totterdell had said: “Take Winnie – Winnie loves kids.”

“I just didn’t think anything of it and I left him there,” Ms Willis added.

Ms Willis said she believed she left the dog with Frankie at about 3:00 and discovered her son had been attacked about an hour later.

Andrew Cox, the senior coroner for Cornwall, said previous incidents with the dog in 2016 and 2018 raised questions about “whether steps could have been taken earlier that may have avoided this tragic outcome”.

“It is manifestly obvious now to us… that there was a risk of this dog attacking Frankie,” he said.