An ‘aggressive’ dog who mauled his owner to death after the 35-year-old collapsed during an epileptic fit was shot dead by police.
Jonathan Halstead died inside his home in Shaw, near Oldham, after Bronson became ‘unusually distressed’ and bit him several times when he suffered a seizure in January.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Bull Mastiff cross caused ‘severe neck injuries’ to Mr Halstead, before dragging his owner under the bed and ‘acting aggressively’ towards paramedics and his father when they tried to approach.
Following a standoff, a firearms officer was called to the home Mr Halstead shared with his parents in Greater Manchester and Bronson was eventually shot and killed.
Engineer Mr Halstead died before he could be taken to hospital, where tests showed his death was the result of bite wounds inflicted on his neck by the dog.
His father told Rochdale Coroner’s Court that he doesn’t believe Bronson, who ‘in general had a good temperament’, had ‘wanted to hurt Jonathan’.
Jonathan Halstead, 35, died inside his home in Shaw, near Oldham, after Bronson (pictured) became ‘unusually distressed’ and bit him several times during a seizure in January
Recalling the events, he described how he heard a ‘tremendous bang’ on January 29 as he and his son were preparing to take a trip into Shaw.
He said: ‘I was in my room getting dressed … and I just heard a tremendous bang and my immediate reaction was Jonathan had had a fit although I think I knew immediately something was different about it.
‘He was lying absolutely straight absolutely still on the floor. Usually if Jonathan had a fit Bronson used to bark at him and try get a response from him and previously I found the least problematic way was just to let Bronson bark rather than interfere as it seemed to wind him up more.
‘However on this occasion Bronson seemed unusually distressed and was trying to pull Jonathan under the bed.
‘I don’t think his motive was necessarily to do any harm but I couldn’t get Bronson to come away as he just wanted to stay with Jonathan.’
Mr Halstead then called police and paramedics, before heading back upstairs to find Bronson ‘lying down by Jonathan’s side’ and licking his chest.
He added: ‘He showed aggression again if I moved into the room.
Pathologist Dr Sami Titi said the medical cause of Mr Halstead’s (pictured) death was a severe neck injury and dog bites, contributed to by epilepsy
‘I don’t think Bronson wanted to hurt Jonathan – my feeling is Jonathan was already dead at that moment. That’s the truth.
‘But I couldn’t get in the room none of us could get into the room to get to move Jonathan. Bronson was being so protective and wouldn’t let anyone near him.
‘My impression was that Jonathan was dead before he was bitten. It was just the way he fell and the weight of his fall and loudness of his crash onto the floor made me think that.
‘It’s been a very horrific experience for the whole family and I am sure for the police, officers and the paramedics who came.
How does the Dangerous Dogs Act protect Britons from bites?
The Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991 made it illegal for a dog to be ‘out of control’ or bite or attack someone.
The legislation also makes it an offence if a person has ‘reasonable apprehension’ that a dog may bite or attack them.
The Act initially set out restrictions for dogs to be ‘out of control in a public place,’ but it was amended to include incidents on private property in 2014.
This includes include homes and gardens.
A dog is considered ‘out of control’ if it injures someone or makes them worried that it might.
However, the law does provide a defence if a dog attacks a home intruder.
It is also illegal to own and breed certain types of dog under the act, including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.
‘I would just like to record my gratitude for the way in which they responded and for their kindness and consideration at all times since then.’
The inquest heard Mr Halstead had suffered epilepsy since he was 11 and had adopted Bronson when he was a puppy in 2013.
His father told the court that during previous seizures Bronson would ‘bark at him and try to get a response from him’.
‘There were none of the other usual signs as with a normal epileptic fit. It was a different sort of event,’ he said.
‘On this occasion he seemed unusually protective of him…it was as if he was trying to drag him under he bed.
‘It was unusual I couldn’t get him away. He just showed aggression if you tried to move into the room. He was being very protective, he wouldn’t let anyone near him.’
Police inquiries revealed he had previously owned another smaller dog, Sasha, who had been put to sleep in 2018 following an attack on her by Bronson.
Officers investigated that incident but at the time Bronson was not deemed to pose a ‘wider risk to public safety.’
Detective Inspector Kenneth Blain of Greater Manchester Police said: ‘One of the officers who had been upstairs to see Jonathan in the bedroom saw Bronson in the bedroom acting aggressively.
‘He was not able to get to Jonathan in the bedroom and asked for firearms officers to assist. Nobody could get into that room.
‘Officers had tried to distract the dog with food and commands but ultimately to remove that threat Bronson had to be shot by the firearms officer.’
Pathologist Dr Sami Titi said the medical cause of Mr Halstead’s death was a severe neck injury and dog bites, contributed to by epilepsy.
Dr Titi said: ‘Mr Halstead most likely suffered a seizure episode leading to the dog becoming agitated and attacking him leading to fatal wounds.
‘The dog had exhibited anxious behaviour previously when Mr Halstead suffered epileptic episodes.’
It was said to be ‘implausible’ that Mr Halstead had suffered a sudden unexplained death from his epilepsy.
Recording a narrative conclusion, Coroner Joanne Kearsley said Mr Halstead’s family had endured a ‘horrendous time’.
She added: ‘Jonathan had a long-standing history of epilepsy and suffered seizures on and off in varying degrees and varying times throughout his life and in the main they seemed to be controlled by his medication.
‘But even with medication, he was prone at times to having some seizures. The fact is this seemed to be a different type of seizure and Jonathan sustained a severe neck injury following an attack from Bronson who thought he was just being over-protective of him.’