Irene Collins died after being bitten by a police dog in 'fight mode' (Image: PA / Glen Minikin)
Irene Collins, who had cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, died four days after being repeatedly bitten by the huge dog after police began searching her garden believing their suspect might be hiding among the bushes.
The stricken pensioner sobbed: “Why is this happening to me” as she was twice mauled by police dog Dano after it burst into the kitchen of her Middlesbrough home.
Giving evidence Cleveland Police handler Pc Mark Baines told how after the first attack he ordered Dano to release Mrs Collins from his jaws.
But the officer told the hearing at Teesside Magistrates’ Court that the pensioner falling forwards caused the dog to think his handler was being attacked so bit her on the arm again.
He told the inquest: “Dano sees that as a threat unfortunately, so he has re-engaged the bite.
“Mrs Collins has stumbled onto the floor, she knocked the lead out of my hand and it ended up underneath Mrs Collins.”
The officer said he got the dog to release his grip of Mrs Collins with a command of “Dano out!”
The pensioner was lying injured on the kitchen floor, and Pc Baines pulled the dog away with a “check chain” around the dog’s neck with just a finger through a small link in the collar.
The police were searching for a suspect who fled a car where £100,000 of heroin and cash were found (Image: getty)
Pc Baines said he got the dog away into the hallway as another officer, Sergeant Neil Yates, raced in to give first aid.
Coroner Karin Welsh asked if the dog was still agitated, barking and pulling in the hallway.
Pc Baines replied: “He was still in prey drive at that point.”
Explaining the phrase to the coroner he said it meant “still in fight mode”.
Dano slipped the check chain as Pc Baines tried to get his whole hand under it between the collar and the dog’s neck by backing out of it and got back into the kitchen to bite Mrs Collins again on the leg.
Ms Welsh asked why the trained police dog did not stop once he had been pulled away from Mrs Collins.
Pc Baines said Sgt Yates, who had come into the kitchen to help and was speaking loudly on the radio, had added to the dog’s excitement.
Pc Baines said a police dog can be taken out of prey drive by getting them away from the scene and calming them down with a “little play”.
But he only got him away as far as the hallway to start with as he was not sure who else was in the house, and he was concerned about going through the front door with the dog as there were up to 60 people outside in the street.
The inquest has heard the dog, who lived with his handler but was not treated as a family pet, was brought in to search Mrs Collins’s garden in July 2014.
A large-scale police operation was under way to find a suspect who had fled from a crashed car where £100,000 of heroin and cash had been found.
The dog had done a sweep of her garden after being released from his lead and got into her kitchen.
The Alsatian lived with his handler but was not treated as a family pet (Image: getty)
When Pc Baines followed Dano in, he found the dog had grabbed her arm.
The officer did not see but had found from subsequent investigations that she may have tried to shoo the dog away.
The inquest has heard Mrs Collins gave permission for police to search her garden but she was not aware that a dog would be involved.
After she was bitten first aid was given, an ambulance was called and she was taken to the James Cook University Hospital where she died four days later.
A Home Office pathologist initially reported she would not have died, despite her medical problems, had she not been bitten.
Pc Baines said the five-year-old dog had been assigned to him after coming from Thames Valley and Hampshire Police and had been under his control since January 2013.
He described the dog, which was destroyed after the incident, as having “exceptional ability” and maintained it had behaved as it had been trained during the tragic incident.
The inquest continues.