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'Sadly missed but never forgotten': Family pay tribute to toddler killed in dog attack
21 March 2022, 23:29 | Updated: 22 March 2022, 22:42
The family of a 17-month-old girl who was killed by a dog in Merseyside have paid tribute, saying "she will be sadly missed but never forgotten".
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Bella-Rae Birch was attacked by a dog in her home in Blackbrook, Saint Helens, on Monday afternoon.
Emergency services rushed her to hospital but she died from her injuries.
Today her family said in a statement: "As a family we would like to thank the community for their support.
"We would ask that we are now allowed some space and time to try and come to terms with the tragic loss of our much-loved Bella-Rae.
"She will be sadly missed but never forgotten."
The family had only bought the animal a week ago.
Merseyside Police said the local community had been left "in complete shock".
Police are now working to establish what breed the dog was and who its previous owners were.
Speaking on Tuesday, Superintendent Steve Brizell said: "Bella-Rae lost her life in the most unimaginably terrible circumstances, and our thoughts are first and foremost with the family and the wider community at this devastating time.
"At this stage we understand that the family dog they'd bought just a week earlier has attacked Bella-Rae inside the family home.
"Bella-Rae was taken by ambulance to hospital by paramedics but despite the best efforts of police officers at the scene, the paramedics and doctors, sadly, Bella-Rae died as a result of her injuries yesterday afternoon.
"It has left a family and a community grieving and in complete shock. During the incident the dog was handed over to police at the address and has been humanely destroyed.
"Detailed investigations are continuing into this tragic event. Forensic examinations to determine the dog's breed are ongoing and we are working to identify all the previous owners of the dog so we can establish its history."
He urged anyone with information about the dog to approach an officer, use social media to contact the force, or through Crimestoppers anonymously.
Merseyside Police said on Monday that Bella-Rae had been attacked on Bidstone Avenue, Blackbrook, with officers being called out at about 3.50pm.
It said the dog would be examined to determine whether it is an illegal bread under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Detective Inspector Lisa Milligan said: "This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the child's family at this devastating time.
"The little girl's parents and wider family are absolutely devastated and our specialist Family Liaison Officers are providing them with support at this horrendous time.
"Whilst we are in the very early stages of the investigation into this extremely tragic incident we can confirm that the dog was only bought by the family a week ago and officers are working to identify the previous owners of the dog concerned and establish its history.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact us via our social media desk @MerPolCC or 'Merseyside Police Contact Centre' on Facebook, with reference 22000196837.
Alternatively, you can call the independent charity @CrimestoppersUK anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or via their website.