Pitbull tragedy: widow speaks

Published Feb 19, 2012


In a gesture of generosity, Linda Lorton says she bears no animosity towards the owner of the dog who mauled her husband, Allan, to death on Tuesday.

Allan, 65, died at his Knight Road home in Sydenham after an attack that lasted more than 45 minutes. Traumatised neighbours who witnessed the tragedy said they were too afraid to intercede and feared the dog would turn on them. The animal, owned by neighbour Erthney Abrahams, was eventually shot by police.

“I don’t blame Erthney at all. She would never have kept a dog she thought might be capable of hurting someone,” said Lorton. “She is in a terrible state, and I don’t want the media to pester her.”

Although witness accounts differ, Lorton believes that the pit bull might have been unnerved by the noise of workmen on the property, and provoked into attacking the family’s toy poms. In his attempt to save the three dogs, which he regarded as his “babies”, he unwittingly signed his death warrant.

“We had noticed that the neighbouring dog had made a small hole under the fence, but Allan sealed it off. I have no idea how he got back through.

“Allan died to save his babies. I have been told that they were outside when the pit bull appeared in our yard, and he managed to shove them back into the house and close the back door before the dog attacked him. Allan knew that dog well, and used to greet it when he passed the house. I can only think that God had decided to call him home.”

Alerted by Allan’s screams, neighbours flocked to the scene of the attack, hurling roof tiles and other objects at the slavering animal to try to get it to release him. The police were called but, said Lorton, both they and the ambulance services took time to respond.

“Even when the police got there and people were yelling at them to take my husband to the Nu-Shifa hospital up the road, they delayed. I believe he would have survived if he had got medical attention sooner.”

Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said he could not confirm how long police took to respond, which would require an investigation.

He said police officers were not allowed to transport injured patients and had to wait for paramedics to arrive and stabilise them.

“Despite heedless shots fired by a member of the Sydenham SAPS to scare it off, the American pit bull terrier continued to maul the man and the police officer was forced to shoot and kill the dog. The owner of the dog was on the scene and all attempts to stop the attack were in vain. An inquest docket has been registered to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death, while a criminal case docket has been registered to investigate the keeping of a ferocious dog.”

Netcare 911 spokesman Jeff Wicks denied claims that paramedics delayed in arriving at the scene. “We received the call at 12.02pm and the ambulance arrived at 12.16pm. It may seem that the ambulance took long to arrive, but in a stressful situation, when people are panicked, minutes may feel like hours.”

Lorton, who works in Stamford Hill Road, was alerted to the emergency by a neighbour. “I got there as fast as I could, but I was just in time to hold him as he passed away,” she said.

“He was holding fast onto the dog’s collar with both hands. His eyes started rolling back into his head and I said: ‘Come, sweetie, let’s get you up’, and then he was gone. His arms had been shredded. The death report lists ‘unnatural causes’, but I will have to wait six weeks until I can find out the details of why he died.”

Although she bears no animosity, Lorton said that she would support the banning of pit bulls.

“Our neighbourhood is full of them. They have become like a fashion statement,” she said. “There is a lot of illegal fighting with pit bulls, but the police turn a blind eye. I don’t want this to happen to any other family.”

As the Tribune left Lorton’s home, a young pit bull eyed our photographer warily from a neighbouring front yard, as children passed within centimetres. - Tribune

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