Frankie MacRitchie: Mother of boy mauled to death by dog apologises for ‘senseless actions’

The mother of a nine-year-old boy who was mauled to death by a dog has apologised to her son’s father and grandmother for causing "so much heartache".

Tawney Willis told Cornwall Coroner’s Court she "knows their heartbreak" over the death of Frankie MacRitchie.

"I miss him every day and I know they do," she added. "I know nothing I will do can ever change what’s happened and I understand that.

"I am sorry for my senseless actions [that] caused them so much heartache, I really am," she told Billy MacRitchie and Pauline Elford.

Frankie, from Plymouth, was on a caravan holiday in Cornwall when he was attacked by a 45kg American bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier in April 2019.

Dr Deborah Cook, a Home Office registered forensic pathologist, previously told the court in Truro that the schoolboy died from blood loss caused by multiple dog bites.

On the night of Frankie’s death, Willis and the dog’s owner, Sadie Totterdell, left him alone with the animal, called Winston.

Initially, the three of them had spent the evening in the park’s social club, returning to their caravan around midnight.

Frankie was left to play computer games while his mother and Totterdell, along with the dog, joined friends in a neighbouring caravan to continue drinking.

Willis said she had checked on Frankie about four or five times. On the last occasion, Winston followed her back to the caravan where Frankie was.

She told the court: "I was going back and forth checking Frankie was alright. I checked around four or five times.

"When I went into the caravan [the last time] the dog followed me in and Frankie asked me if the dog could stay in and I asked Sadie, ‘Is he alright’ and she said, ‘Yeah, take Winnie, Winnie loves kids’.

"I just didn’t think anything of it, and I left them there."

When Willis returned at about 4.30am, she discovered her son lying on the kitchen floor covered in blood.

Frankie had been alone with the dog for more than an hour, the court heard.

"The dog was sat on the sofa just looking at me," Willis said.

Breaking down in tears, she added: "I was screaming. I remember crouching over Frankie, and he was on his front and I turned him over.

"I remember screaming and screaming. I was there ages screaming. I didn’t think anybody could hear me – it felt like a lifetime.

"I was crouching over him and held him in my arms. It wasn’t immediate that people came. I was screaming for a long time before people came."

Emergency first responders and paramedics attempted resuscitation but Frankie was declared dead at 5.35am.

Willis has been released from prison after admitting a charge of child neglect and being sentenced to two years.

The inquest continues.

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