Couple facing jail after their dog mauled 18-month-old girl in playground

A couple who owned a banned pitbull-type dog that mauled a toddler in a playground are facing years in prison.

Michael Thornton and Hayley Eldridge’s dog Max attacked 18-month-old Viktoria Resetjnova while he was being walked by a teenage girl in April last year.

The dog dragged the little girl around by her ponytail before ripping it out, and also bit Viktoria’s head.

Michael Thornton arrives at Maidstone Crown Court to appear along with Hayley Eldridge, as the couple are facing jail after their banned pitbull-type dog mauled and severely injured a toddler in a playpark. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 13, 2018. The pair had allowed a 15-year-old girl to walk their dog which then attacked 18-month-old Viktoria Resetjnova in a playground in Chatham, Kent, on April 4 last year. See PA story COURTS Dog. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Michael Thornton changed his plea to guilty on the day the trial was due to begin (Picture: PA)

She suffered critical injuries and was rushed to hospital, and although she survived, faces years of surgery.

Thornton, 27, and Eldridge, 29, both of Chatham in Kent, pleaded guilty to owning a dog which caused injury while dangerously out of control in a public place.

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They had been due to stand trial at Maidstone Crown Court but changed their plea from not guilty before the jury was sworn in.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Thornton and Eldridge had paid a 15-year-old girl with cannabis to walk their dog on the day of the attack, the court heard.

Hayley Eldridge arrives at Maidstone Crown Court to appear along with Michael Thornton, as the couple are facing jail after their banned pitbull-type dog mauled and severely injured a toddler in a playpark. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 13, 2018. The pair had allowed a 15-year-old girl to walk their dog which then attacked 18-month-old Viktoria Resetjnova in a playground in Chatham, Kent, on April 4 last year. See PA story COURTS Dog. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Hayley Eldridge and Thornton had only owned the dog for six days before the attack (Picture: PA)

They had only owned Max for six days at the time, and later told police they thought he was a Staffordshire bull terrier.

Shortly before the attack in Jenkins Dale in Chatham, the girl had repeatedly struck the dog with a chain.

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Afterwards, Max was shot dead by firearms officers who arrived at the scene.

Viktoria’s scalp could not be re-attached, and her skull has been left exposed until she is old enough to have a skin graft.

At an earlier hearing, mum-of-three Eldridge admitted perjury in relation to her lying during family court proceedings that she was not being prosecuted for the dangerous dog offence.

PHOTO BY: STEVE FINN 07968894444 PICTURE SHOWS: A STOCK IMAGE SUPPLIED 13/08/18 MICHAEL THORNTON AND HAYLEY ELDRIDGE APPEAR AT MAIDSTONE CROWN COURT TODAY A Scene Picture As Police Cover Up The Pitbull Cross Dog In Holcombe Road.Jenkins Dale.Where A Dog Bit A Young Child Known As Victoria ! and A Half Years Old And Was Shot Tonight.Chatham.Kent.Uk.04/04/17 stevefinnphotography@yahoo.co.uk SPEC IMAGE SEE FERRARI PRESS FOR COPY NO SOCIAL MEDIA WITHOUT PRIOR PERMISSION FROM THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER ONLINE FEE AND PAPER FEE APPLIES
Max was shot dead by firearms officers who were called to the scene (Picture: Steve Finn)

The teenager who walked the dog pleaded guilty in a youth court in October last year.

Now 16, she was handed a 12-month supervision order and ordered to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work.

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At the time, the court heard a victim impact statement from Viktoria’s father Sergei, in which he spoke of how the incident ‘changed my family’s life forever’.

He said: ‘I’m angry, I’m very angry. My little girl does not deserve what has happened to her.

‘I do not understand how and why this happened to my little girl. I do not understand how the owners have let this happen, how did they let this happen to my little girl?

‘This incident has changed my family’s life forever.’

Thornton, of Ryde Close, and Eldridge, of Gorse Avenue, were bailed ahead of sentencing on September 24.