‘Keep killer dogs locked up’

2017-08-30 14:34
Estelle and Graydon Sinkins and their late son James (8).

Estelle and Graydon Sinkins and their late son James (8). (Kailene Pillay)

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Through her tears, an emotional mother gave her evidence during an inquest into her son’s death after a savage dog attack, at the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Estelle and Graydon Sinkins’ son, James (8), a special needs child, was attacked by their neighbours’ dogs in the garden of their Howick home in 2015.

The owners of the dogs, Shanaaz and Aslam Alladin, were also present at the inquest on Tuesday. They told the court that they would not need legal representation at this point but were only present to observe evidence given.

Sinkins, the former Witness arts editor, rescued James from the jaws of the Alladins’ two dogs and rushed him to Howick’s Medi-Clinic hospital. He died two days later, hours after being transferred to the ICU at St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.

In a quest to find justice for their son, Estelle and Graydon Sinkins read their statements to magistrate Dieter Schultz on Tuesday.

In conclusion, Estelle told the court that “even if nothing came of this”, she pleaded with dog owners to understand their responsibility in ensuring their pets did not pose any danger to others.

“I do not wish this on another mother, father or grandparent to have to endure the pain that we have been enduring,” Sinkins said.

She said that she and her husband had undergone counselling and received medical assistance “often” since their son’s death.

“James’ death has been the most difficult thing to endure. I also had to watch my elderly parents deal with his death. His death has left a massive hole in mine, my husband’s and parents’ lives,” she said.

Sinkins read out the statement that she made to police last year and that was previously reported in The Witness.

A visibly emotional Sinkins declined to take advantage of magistrate Schultz’s offer to her for a break during the proceedings.

She continued to tell the court of the day James was attacked, the hospital procedures that followed and the day he died. She also spoke of previous incidents where the neighbours’ dogs allegedly attacked and killed the Sinkins’ cat and dog in separate incidents.

The attack happened as Sinkins was about to drive out of her gate on an assignment, leaving James playing outside her parents’ cottage in their yard. She had blown him a kiss goodbye.

As she closed the gate, she saw their family dog, Jessie, “whining, barking” and trying to get through a fence in the area where James was. Alarmed by the pet’s strange behaviour, Sinkins raced to the scene.

“It’s a sight that will haunt me for the rest of my life. My neighbours’ black wolf-like dogs were attacking James.

“One of the dogs had grabbed him around the neck and the other had a hold of his leg. They were dragging him. I can’t describe the horror and panic I felt,” said Sinkins.

As she ran to her son, she felt she was “running through treacle”, slowing her down.

She says when she got to him she “thinks” she managed to get the dogs away by shouting and screaming at them.

“When I looked down at James I could see blood and some puncture wounds, but I didn’t know how serious they were. I could see the dogs in my peripheral vision.”

Sinkins said their family had a history of problems with the same neighbours’ dogs, which allegedly savaged their cat Pebbles to death on December 25, 2011, and killed their elderly black labrador, Bonzo, during the night of March 23, 2014.

On both occasions one of the dogs’ owners allegedly apologised. Aslam allegedly offered to buy them another cat, says Sinkins, and when Bonzo was killed, begged her not to carry out her intention to call the SPCA to put the dogs down.

“He said they were his son’s pets and dearly loved by him. I wasn’t keen to change my mind, but I am also not the kind of person who kills animals without reason.”

Though worried about the safety of their other pets and family members, she agreed not to take action, in exchange for the neighbour’s guarantee that he would fix his fencing to prevent the dogs getting out, she said.

“I also told him I believed the dogs posed a real danger to my son James, who has special needs, and stated that if they came across him they would in all probability kill him,” she added.

The inquest is continuing.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dog attack

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