Man bludgeoned his dog to death and burnt remains after it mauled girl (8)

Laganside Courts in Belfast City centre  Pic Colm Lenaghan/PacemakerLaganside Courts in Belfast City centre  Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Laganside Courts in Belfast City centre Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
A man who bludgeoned his dog to death with a hammer and burnt the remains after it mauled an eight-year-old girl has been jailed for four months.

Belfast Magistrates’ Cout heard Wayne McGrath inflicted “unimaginable pain” on an American Bulldog-type pet which had left the child scarred and traumatised.

The 47-year-old, of Marsden Gardens in the city, was also banned from keeping any animals for life.

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His lawyer described it as one of the worst cases of its kind ever dealt with in Northern Ireland.

McGrath admitted charges of being the keeper of a dog involved in an attack, and causing it unnecessary suffering.

The girl was bitten and mauled while the animal was off the lead at Kinnaird Avenue, north Belfast in May last year.

Witnessed described seeing the animal shake and trail her by the hair.

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McGrath and another man started punching and kicking the dog in a bid to break its hold.

At one point the girl managed to get free and fled, but the animal shook off a chain put round its neck and ran off after her.

A prosecution lawyer said: “The dog caught up with the child and got on top of her, and was shaking her and mauling at her chest.”

The two men then managed to grab it by the scruff of the neck while the girl was led to the safety of a car.

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The child was taken to hospital for treatment to a puncture mark to her head and a further 15 wounds, bites or slashes to her body, the court heard.

She underwent three hours of surgery to repair lacerations to her front temple, shoulder and arm.

“Since the attack the child has had difficulty eating and sleeping, and is not as outgoing as she previously was,” the lawyer added.

Police questioned McGrath at the scene, before taking him and the dog back to his partner’s house.

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The next day officers checked to see if he had handed the animal over to the dog warden to be humanely destroyed.

He then confessed to killing the dog with a hammer and then burning the body.

Searches were carried out at his home, but no remains were located.

During interviews he claimed to have carried out the killing at a dump near Ligoniel.

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“He admitted killing the dog by hitting it over the crown of the head with a hammer twice, and then putting its remains in a wheelie bin, covering it with copper wire and petrol, and setting the remains and the tools he used on fire,” prosecution counsel said.

“He said the dog cried out when hit, and there was some blood.

“He alleged that he received threats to his life, he was under pressure to dispose of the dog and that he had no money to take the dog to a vet to be humanely euthanised.”

Further searches at the dump area found no evidence of dog remains or burnt wheelie bins.

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According to the prosecution, the animal had been subjected to unnecessary cruelty.

“A blow to the head with a hammer would cause a lot of damage, trauma and pain,” the lawyer argued.

“In the final moments of its life the animal would have experienced unimaginable pain and fear inflicted by its carer.

“There’s no way to ascertain if the first blow from the hammer would have rendered the dog insensible, and the owner ascertained a further blow was indeed required.”

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Medical reports disclosed the child still suffers from anxiety and only leaves the house to go to school.

She will not use mirrors due to scars which will require skin grafts when she is older, and is self-conscious about what she wears.

Defence barrister Sean O’Hare acknowledged the shocking circumstances.

He told District Judge George Conner: “This is probably one of the most serious cases you will have to deal within this jurisdiction and within this court.”

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Mr O’Hare said it was bad enough that McGrath allowed his dog to be off the lead and attack an innocent child.

But his client’s response then took it into “another sphere of severity altogether”.

According to the barrister McGrath acted out of fear, having received a visit from people connected to an unnamed criminal organisation.

“The defendant foolishly took a hammer to the dog and set fire to the carcass,” he said.

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It was stressed that McGrath’s admissions were the only evidence that the dog was actually destroyed in the way described.

“He’s accepted responsibility for what he has done,” Mr O’Hare added.

Sentencing McGrath to four months in prison, Mr Conner told him: “This is a terrible case whereby lasting injury has been caused to a young girl.

“Then, the manner in which you dealt with the dog was just quite appalling.

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“I have no doubt in my mind that unnecessary suffering was caused to that animal.”

The judge also confirmed that he was imposing a lifetime ban on McGrath keeping any type of animal.

He declined to order compensation to the victim, deciding that any payment he could direct would be “a drop in the ocean” compared to the damage inflicted.

“I hope this child will be properly compensated through the criminal injuries scheme,” Mr Conner stressed.

McGrath was released on bail pending an appeal against the jail term imposed.