A woman who was hired to walk a pack of dogs, and is believed to have been killed by the same dogs in a frenzied attack, reportedly shouted “go back” to two horsewomen who stumbled upon the gruesome scene in Surrey before her death.
Armed officers were called to reports of a dog attacking members of the public in the remote beauty spot Gravelly Hill in Caterham at 2.45pm yesterday afternoon.
Despite the best efforts of paramedics, a 28-year-old woman from London died at the scene.
A second woman who received treatment for dog bites has since been discharged from hospital.
The victim is believed to have been walking a ‘number of dogs’ at the time. Her next of kin have been informed and are being supported by specialist officers. It is understood the force is looking into whether she was a registered dog-walker.
Eight dogs were detained at the scene and remain in police custody.
The dogs’ owners have been identified and are being kept informed as the investigation continues, however it’s understood none of the dogs are a dangerous or forbidden breed.
They are thought to include a Leonberger, a cross between a Newfoundland and a St Bernard and two sausage dogs. It was not clear how many of them attacked the victim and only one of the dogs appeared to be of substantial size.
A source close to the case told the Daily Mail: ‘She just had too many dogs. You cannot be in control with that amount of dogs. If something happens, it’s like having seven small wolves attacking you.
‘The dogs were in a frenzy, acting as a pack, and going for whatever was in front of them.’
One of the dogs had moments earlier attacked and bitten another woman who was walking her own dog – and she fled, injured.
It is thought the dead woman may then have fallen under attack from the seven or eight dogs she was walking.
When two horsemen stumbled upon the graphic scene, she shouted: ‘Go back, go back’.
Neighbours in the rural area close to the M25 were stunned to have the vicious death on their door-step.
Lesley Hoffley, 62, who lives just yards away from where the incident happened, said: ‘No one seems to know anything and the police haven’t been in touch at all. All we know is from what we see on the news.
‘We don’t know if the young lady was a local. It’s hard to say because people come from all over to Gravelly Hill.’
The part-time copywriter added: ‘It’s a lovely walking spot so there’s always cars parked there belonging to people from outside the area. It’s got a stunning view of the North Downs. We found out about the incident yesterday and it really shocked me and my husband. I’ve never known it to have a problem with dog attacks before. It just doesn’t really make any sense. Why are there seven dangerous dogs around there and how did it happen? None of us who live round here have any idea.
‘The wording of the police statement also is a quite worrying. They say they’ve think they’ve caught all seven dogs but how can they know?
‘It’s left the community feeling really anxious and, of course, heartbroken for whoever this young lady was.’
Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, added: ‘It’s unbelievable. We’ve not had too many details about it but everyone has been shaken by the news. This could have happened to anyone. All our thoughts are with the girl’s family.’
Inspector Lyndsey Whatley of Surrey Police said: ‘This is a tragic incident where a young woman has sadly lost her life and our thoughts are with her family and friends.
‘I know that yesterday’s events will be of real concern to the local community and I would like to reassure residents that we are confident all the dogs involved are in the custody of police while we investigate the circumstances of what has happened.
‘Officers will remain in the area of Gravelly Hill today while enquiries continue and if you have any information but have not yet spoken to police then please contact us.’
A police cordon remains in place at Gravelly Hill today while forensic work is carried out. Officers have erected a black gazebo at the scene, while a number of police vehicles and two red vans – one marked ‘Underwater Search Unit’ – were spotted behind the cordon.
Richard Bream, who runs the nearby Mardens Kennels, said he had never heard of a dog attack in the area before.
He said: ‘That particular area, View Point, is an area where professional dog walkers will turn up in their van and take the dogs out and walk them. I’ve always felt you see some of these dog walkers have five or six, and they shouldn’t be able to do that.’
A woman walking a border collie past one of the police cordons, who asked not to be named, said she was shocked by the incident. She said: ‘It’s a nice circular woodland walk and we’ve never had any issues before. It is so shocking, normal dogs surely wouldn’t do that.’
A man at an address near the scene, who asked not to be named, said the beauty spot was very popular with dog walkers.
He said: ‘The dogs dispersed into different areas of the woods and the police helicopter was out looking for them.’
A post-mortem examination will be conducted by the Surrey coroner as part of an inquest into the death.
Claire Coutinho, the MP for East Surrey, said: ‘My thoughts are with the loved ones of the lady who has died following a dog attack in Caterham this afternoon. Thank you to the paramedics for their efforts at the scene and officers from Surrey Police who controlled the situation so quickly.’
Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver said on Friday morning: ‘It’s a terrible incident. It just sounds absolutely shocking and I’m sure that the police will be following it up.
‘I don’t know what can be done but something needs to be done to prevent this from happening again, most certainly.’
Jenny Gaffney, Liberal Democrat Councillor at Tandridge District Council, said the community was shocked by the attack.
She said: ‘It’s absolutely shocking and it’s incredibly sad for the poor lady who died and the woman who has been injured. We’re all waiting to find out what happened. There’s an awful lot of speculation on social media at the moment which isn’t helpful for the family of the poor lady who died.’
Chief Inspector Alan Sproston added: ‘Our thoughts are with the family of the woman who sadly died. This incident will be concerning to the local community and I would like to reassure them that we believe all dogs have been accounted for and are in police custody.
‘Our investigation to establish the circumstances of the incident remains ongoing and we would ask the community not to speculate.’
One man at the scene said: ‘The area is in the middle of the countryside surrounded by big detached houses. All the roads nearby and surrounding roads are closed. There are police cars with flashing lights blocking the roads.
‘It is quite a bog walking spot round here but no one seems to know exactly what happened.’
The owners of dogs that kill someone can be jailed for up to 14 years or face an unlimited fine or both.
And even if there are no deaths, they can still face five years prison if it injures someone.