Family pay tribute to 17-month-old Bella-Rae killed by dog bought a week ago in St Helens home

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Tim Scott

The family of a 17-month-old girl who died after being attacked by a dog in her home in St Helens have paid tribute to her.

They described little Bella-Rae Birch as 'much-loved' and thanked the community for their support following the tragic incident which happened on Monday 21 March on Bidston Avenue, in Blackbrook.

A neighbour, known only as Jordan, began CPR on the toddler after hearing screaming, and running to the house.

Emergency services attended and Bella-Rae was taken to hospital, but she later died of her injuries.

In a statement Bella-Rae's family said: "As a family we would like to thank the community for their support.

"We would ask that we are now allowed some space and time to try and come to terms with the tragic loss of our much-loved Bella-Rae.

"She will be sadly missed but never forgotten."

Bella-Rae, who was 17 months old, was taken to hospital where she died of her injuries. Credit: Family picture

Police said Bella-Rae had lost her life in the most "unimaginably terrible circumstances", adding the community had "woken up to the most tragic news".

Merseyside Police said officers received a report at 3.50pm on Monday that a child had been attacked by a dog at the address in Blackbrook.

The dog was handed over to police and has been humanely destroyed.

Officers say the dog will be subject to further forensic examinations to determine the breed and whether it is, or is not a legal breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991).

Detective Inspector Lisa Milligan said: "This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the child’s family at this devastating time.

"The little girl’s parents and wider family are absolutely devastated and our specialist Family Liaison Officers are providing them with support at this horrendous time.

"Whilst we are in the very early stages of the investigation into this extremely tragic incident we can confirm that the dog was only bought by the family a week ago and officers are working to identify the previous owners of the dog concerned and establish its history.

Our correspondent Tim Scott has been at the scene all day and has this update:

Merseyside Police also say their officers will remain on Bidston Avenue in the coming days to provide reassurance to the local community and we will work tirelessly to establish the full circumstances.

Detective Inspector Milligan said "If you were in the Bidston Avenue area and witnessed anything, or have any information about the dog in question then please come forward speak to one of our officers.

"Our officers take the issue of dangerous dogs very seriously. Over the past years we have worked proactively with the five local authorities in Merseyside to ensure prohibited dogs are taken off the streets."

Can you help?

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Merseyside Police on Twitter @MerPolCC or 'Merseyside Police Contact Centre' on Facebook, with reference 22000196837.