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Esther Martin, 68, dies after being mauled by two 'XL bully' dogs in Jaywick, Essex

A woman has died after being mauled by two dogs reported to be XL bullies.

Essex Police said officers were called to a house in Hillman Avenue, Jaywick, where they found victim Esther Martin seriously injured.

The 68-year-old, who was visiting her 11-year-old grandson at the time, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 4pm on Saturday.

A 39-year-old man from Jaywick, who was known to the victim, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous dog offences and remains in custody.

Ms Martin's daughter Sonia Martin said the dogs were of the XL bully breed - which was banned at the start of this month - with a total of six puppies and two adult dogs in the property.

She told the BBC: "There were adult XL bully dogs in the property, and my mum had raised concerns to the owners about them being dangerous and quite aggressive."

Ms Martin said she had been told the puppies started fighting and her mother was told by the dogs' owner to "put a broom in among them, to distract them".

"That's when she was attacked," she added.

Ms Martin added that her mother, from Woodford Green in London, had been "getting her life back together" following the death of another daughter two years ago.

She added: "It's killed our mum and it's killed our children's grandmother. I'm getting married in a couple of years and my mum won't be at that."

'Unflinching bravery'

Essex Police said earlier on Sunday that the force was "working with experts" to establish the breed of the dogs and urged the public "not to speculate".

Chief Superintendent Glen Pavelin said both of the animals were "destroyed inside the house" after officers arrived at the scene.

He told reporters: "Their unflinching bravery and professionalism ensured that there is no ongoing threat to the people of Essex as a result of this incident."

The force also revealed that members of the public tried to save Esther as the attack unfolded.

Chief Supt Pavelin said: "I would also like to thank local people who tried to get into the house to help Esther Martin. You should be proud."

He added: "Our thoughts remain with everyone affected by what's happened.

"I've seen the flowers laid down for Esther, as have my officers. I would like to thank all those that have come together to pay tribute to her."

Chief Supt Pavelin said the man arrested is thought to be a relative of Esther.

'Barking and screaming'

Lucy Shaw, 38, who lives nearby, told the PA news agency she heard screaming for around 10 minutes.

She said: "We went out into the garden and it was all quiet and then we heard dogs barking, and then we heard someone screaming.

"It seemed like the screaming of a child. That went on for about 10 minutes. We went back in after a while because it sounded horrific."

Fellow neighbour Mike Coleman, 74, said he saw a man come down the road to the property and start shouting.

He said: "He is really shouting and hollering, he was really, really loud. Then he starts whacking at the windows. He appeared panicked.

"He said 'phone the police'. My wife phoned them but they said they had someone else on the phone. Minutes later the police came - two cars, then three then five, and then they blocked the road off.

"I heard the shots of them being destroyed, then that was it."

His wife Julie Coleman, 67, described the man as "very stressed, very agitated, very verbal and quite concerned".

She added: "He was shouting 'they're XL bullies', but I just don't know [what breed they were]."

Breed yet to be established

Although the breed involved is yet to be established, the attack comes just days after a ban on XL bully-type dogs came into force, meaning it is now a criminal offence to own one of the animals in England and Wales without an exemption certificate.

Unregistered pets can be seized and owners fined and prosecuted.

Around 40,000 of the large bulldog-type American breed are believed to have been registered before Wednesday's deadline, but there may be thousands more without certificates.

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The ban on XL bully dogs was introduced after a spate of attacks in recent years.

The breed was added to the Dangerous Dogs Act on 31 October last year when restrictions came into force dictating the dogs must be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

Breeding, selling or abandoning the dogs also became illegal as of 31 December 2023.

Owners of XL bully dogs in Scotland will also be subject at a later date to the safeguards after Holyrood replicated legislation in place south of the border.

A decision on whether to add to the list of banned breeds in Northern Ireland is for locally elected ministers and is yet to be made.

People with dangerously out-of-control dogs can be jailed for up to 14 years and banned from owning animals, and their pets can be put down.