Man died after ‘loyal’ dog attacked him when he passed out during epileptic fit

Composition showing the man and his dog
The dog was described as having a ‘gentle nature’ before he started becoming aggressive (Pictures: MEN Media)

A man died after he was badly bitten by his dog while having an epiliptic fit, a coroner has ruled.

Jonathan Halstead, 35, collapsed in his bedroom at his home in Shaw, Greater Manchester, before his Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Mastiff cross Bronson attacked. Jonathan’s father – who had heard his son fall – could not get into his bedroom because of how aggressive Bronson was being. Medics and police tried to steer the dog away from his owner but he would not budge. Eventually the ‘loyal’ dog was shot and killed by officers. Engineer Jonathan was pronounced dead at the scene.
An inquest at Rochdale Coroner’s Court on Tuesday concluded that Jonathan died as a result of wounds inflicted by the dog after a seizure rendered him unconscious. The court head that Jonathan bought Bronson as a puppy seven years ago, and he usually had a ‘soft temperament’ but became ‘agitated’ and ‘overprotective’ when his owner suffered seizures. In 2018, Bronson attacked another of the family’s dogs, Sasha, who had to be put down because of her injuries. Jonathan’s father, Stephen, told the inquest his son had been diagnosed with epilepsy aged 11 in 1998 and had periods where he would suffer one seizure every week.

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Photograph of Johnathan Halstead
Jonathan Halstead was described as a ‘proud family man’ who was ‘full of energy and fun’ (Pictured: Cavendish Press)

He described via videolink hearing a ‘tremendous bang’ that made him feel there was ‘something different’ about what he assumed was his son having a fit.

Stephen said: ‘When Jonathan had one of his fits, inevitably he tended to crumple down and never seemed to hurt himself terribly badly. This was very different, it was a very loud bang.’

When Stephen went to check on his son he found him lying on the floor with no visible convulsions. ‘There were none of the other usual signs as with a normal epileptic fit. It was a different sort of event,’ he said.

During Jonathan’s previous seizures Bronson would ‘bark at him and try to get a response from him’ but ‘on this occasion he seemed unusually protective of him’ and his father thought the dog was trying to drag Jonathan under his 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,’ the inquest heard.

Photograph of dog
Bronson was Johnathan’s ‘shadow’
(Picture: Cavendish Press)

Stephen called the police who resorted to calling a firearms officer in to shoot the dog when they could not get him away.

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A pathologist said it was ‘implausible’ that Jonathan had suffered a sudden unexplained death from epilepsy and that bruising and bleeding from wounds on his neck, chest and cheek were large and deep and suggested he was alive during the attack. His resulting injuries were ‘incompatible with life’, the pathologist added.

The medical cause of death was recorded as a severe neck injury as a result of dog bites and epilepsy.

Stephen said: ‘I don’t think he wanted to hurt Jonathan. My feeling is that he was already dead, that’s the truth of how I see it.’

Stephen said his son seemed ‘happy’ and ‘full of joy’ the day he died before Bronson followed him up the stairs as he always did ‘like his shadow’.

Bronson’s breed was not a pitbull-type and was therefore not banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Senior coroner Joanne Kearsley recorded a narrative conclusion that Jonathan ‘died as a result of injuries sustained in an attack from his dog, whilst unconscious following an epileptic seizure’.

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