I couldn’t give a toss’: Shocking response of devil dog owner whose pet maimed boy of two
- Keiron Guess savaged by Staffordshire bull terrier while playing by his home
- Toddler lucky to survive after needing hours of surgery to rebuild his face
- Dog’s 15-year-old owner Shovell King has a fearsome reputation in Swindon
- Showed no remorse, writing on Facebook: ‘I couldn’t give a tossss [sic]’
- Ratty mauled two police officers during drugs raid on King’s house last year
- No-one will face charges over toddler attack as it was on private property
By PAUL BRACCHI
PUBLISHED: 23:03, 8 June 2012 | UPDATED: 23:35, 8 June 2012
Little Keiron Guess needed seven hours of surgery this week to rebuild his face after being savaged by a neighbour’s Staffordshire bull terrier. And the response of the dog’s 15-year-old owner is every bit as horrifying…
With his ‘hoodie’ and the peak of his baseball cap perpetually pulled down over his face, Shovell King cut an intimidating figure.
His appearance, though, was not the only reason which made people want to cross the road when they saw the 15-year-old coming towards them.
Another was invariably by his side: up to 3st of muscle, teeth and claws masquerading as a family pet — a vicious Staffordshire bull terrier called Ratty.
Mauled: Two-year-old Kieron Guess needed seven hours of surgery to rebuild his face after being attacked by a neighbour’s Staffordshire bull terrier outside his home in Swindon
The two — dog and owner — enjoyed a fearsome reputation in Swindon. Ratty’s temperament, it seems, was more American pit bull, a breed banned in Britain, than traditional ‘Staffie’. According to neighbours, it appeared that Shovell King used the snarling, growling animal to scare and intimidate.
Last year, during a drugs raid at the house that Shovell — or ‘Shovi’ as he is known — shares with his father, Garfield King, his ‘pet’ attacked not one but two police officers.
Nothing illegal was found at the end-of-terrace in Swanage Walk, but one officer was bitten on the hand, the other on the leg. Even a blast from a Taser stun gun failed to subdue the crazed animal. In other words, Ratty was a tragedy just waiting to happen.
That tragedy finally occurred at 6pm on Sunday, which is why you are reading about ‘Shovi’ King today. The victim, on this occasion, was two-year-old Keiron Guess. Keiron lives with his mum Stacey, 22, father Anthony, 23, and his brother Mckenzie, aged four, in a home backing on to the Kings’ property.
On Sunday, Keiron was being looked after by his grandfather. He was playing outside but wandered into the garden where Ratty the Staffordshire bull terrier was kept. Moments later, the sound of screams filled Swanage Walk.
Confrontation: Jonathan King (left), a brother of dog owner Shovell King, clashes with Mr Guess over the attack
We shall not dwell on the horrific seconds that followed. Suffice to say, Keiron underwent seven hours of emergency reconstructive surgery on his face after being airlifted to hospital in Bristol.
He is lucky only in the sense that he survived. In the past five years alone, six children in Britain have died in similar circumstances. Six young lives lost, and countless people injured in streets, public parks and gardens across the country, by dogs — wild animals in all but name — under the command of owners like ‘Shovi’ King.
Neither King nor anyone else will face criminal charges because the attack on Keiron took place on private property. So the only comeuppance ‘Shovi’ will get is being ‘named and shamed’ in this article, if indeed it is possible for him to feel any shame. That is debatable considering his outpourings on his Facebook site, on which he and his ‘followers’ discussed the events of last Sunday.
So what did he have to say about the attack on Keiron, which may leave him permanently scarred? The answer is there, in barely-literate text speak,
‘I couldn’t give a tossss,’ King wrote.
He DID feel sympathy, though, for his beloved Ratty, who was subsequently put down.
‘Swear this worlds f*****,’ he declared. ‘If I trespassed on a police dog’s territory I would get attacked and thats what my dog did ’n’ got put down? don’t have kids if you aint supervising them, nuff said.’
This from a boy, not yet 16, whose own father allowed him to take charge of such a dangerous dog and who, it seems, did little to stop him roaming the estate with his intimidating ‘pet’.
Perhaps it is a case of ‘like father, like son’ if an incident which occurred shortly after details of Keiron’s ordeal emerged is anything to go by. Understandably, the Press was anxious to speak to Garfield King, who, it turned out, had been watching the Jubilee celebrations on TV when Keiron was mauled.
One local reporter was invited inside Mr King’s home. Initially, he was happy to answer questions. His mood suddenly changed, though, after he received a phone call and he became aggressive and began menacingly slapping the palm of one hand with the back of the other.
When the journalist tried to leave, Mr King blocked his way. ‘I thought he was going to attack me,’ the reporter said. He escaped only after being forced to rip out the pages of his notebook and hand them over. Mr King said later, however, that he felt ‘terrible’ about the attack on his young neighbour.
‘Shovi’ King is believed to be the youngest of Garfield King’s offspring. He has at least four other children (Shovi’s half-siblings) by a number of different women. Although a painter and decorator by trade, no one in Swanage Walk, where he has lived for the past decade, can remember him working in recent memory.
An older son, Jonathan, from London, is now staying at the house. No sooner had he arrived on the scene than he was involved in an ugly confrontation in the street with Keiron’s grandfather over what had happened.
Jonathan King, shaven-headed, dressed in black and sporting dark sunglasses, could not have looked more intimidating.
‘Everyone knows each other on this estate,’ said one resident, ‘but most people keep their distance from them [the King family].’ Keiron’s family, on the other hand, could not be more different. They moved into the street about a year ago. Mr Guess is a scaffolder. His wife is pregnant with their third child. Both sets of grandparents live nearby.
They epitomise the fundamental decency that, once upon a time, used to characterise streets like Swanage Walk. Increasingly ‘working class’ is being replaced by ‘underclass’.
‘Shovi’ King, many might say, represents the latest generation of this underclass. This is the wider narrative behind the near-fatal mauling of Keiron Guess and so many other attacks.
There was a 39 per cent rise in the number of people sentenced for dangerous dog crimes in just a year, up from 855 in 2009 to 1,192 in 2010, the latest figures available.
But more than 6,000 people, however — around 17 per day — were treated at A&E departments for dog attack wounds in 2010/11, which suggests that the majority of culprits are going unpunished. This tallies with a recent survey on crime which found that people’s fear of dog-wielding ‘hoodies’ outweighed their concerns about graffiti or burglary.
Aggression: Two pit bull-style dogs seen leaping up at Shovell King’s house near to where Keiron was attacked
For many ‘hoodies’ the dog of choice is the Staffordshire bull terrier. Sometimes they are put on treadmills and hung from trees by their teeth to bulk up their muscles and strengthen their bite before being used for street fighting, where friends or rivals set their dogs on one another to see which is the toughest.
Most are simply kept as must-have accessories, status symbols. Either way, they usually end up being utterly brutalised by their irresponsible owners and, in the process, become a threat to anyone who may happen to unwittingly stray into their path; no less dangerous than a gun or a knife, yet, paradoxically, harder to control.
Such dogs — not just Staffordshire bull terriers, of course, but also Rottweilers, mastiffs and other fearsome breeds — have become a horrific feature of modern Britain; terrorising neighbourhoods, inflicting injury, killing pets, and sometimes people.
There have been eight such fatalities in the past four years — six of them, as we have already said, were children. It is a truly shameful statistic. Among them was Ellie Lawrenson, aged five from Merseyside, who was bitten 72 times by an American pit bull in 2007.
Pit bulls were outlawed under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. But the breed, or at least their closest genetic cousins, can be bought with ease on the internet. They are advertised as ‘pure American Staffordshire terriers’. One such advert on a specialist puppy website yesterday read: ‘Pure American Staffordshire Terrier … very healthy, strong and big.’
A similar one was placed by Steve from Hull who wanted £350 for his American Staffordshire. When contacted by the Mail, he said that although his dog ‘is related to the American pit bull, they are different breeds. American pit bulls are bred for fighting and aggression and as such they are dangerous dogs, but my dog is bred to be a family pet’.
Other adverts did not even try to disguise the pit bull ‘connection’. It’s regarded as a selling point, after all, by some some customers. One ‘nine-week-old chunky, male, Staffy cross American bull’ was being sold ‘because it doesn’t get on’ with the owner’s other dog. Yet, the seller insists, it is safe ‘around children’.
Under Section One of the aforementioned law, a dog is classified as a ‘pit-bull-type’ if it has the ‘substantial’ physical characteristics of an American pit bull terrier including the thickness of the cranium and the size of the neck.
In practice, the animal has to be anaesthetised and 32 parts of its body examined before police can prosecute the owner. Thus many pit bulls are still on streets up and down the country — passed off as Staffordshire bull terriers.
Back in Bristol, Keiron Guess is now in a stable condition and is breathing unaided after initially being placed in a medically-induced coma. He has squeezed his mother’s hand for the first time since being admitted. His favourite Peppa Pig cuddy toy is by his side.
Horror: The attack happened while Keiron was being looked after by his grandfather in Swanage Walk (above)
‘He’s been so brave,’ said his grandfather, Shaun Leonard, this week. ‘He is stable now and his parents are at his bedside. They are both coping well.’
Following the rise in attacks, the Sentencing Council for England and Wales has recommended that judges take a tougher line on those convicted of offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
The new guidelines, introduced last month, will mean more offenders facing jail and fewer will receive discharges. The guidelines suggest the punishment for owners who let their dogs attack people should be up to six months in prison, even if no one is injured.
Crucially, the Sentencing Council is also moving to close a loophole in the law which has prevented dog owners being prosecuted for a dog attack on someone unlawfully if it was on their own property.
It is this ‘loophole’ that prevented any member of the King family from being charged with an offence.
‘Shovi’ King’s shocking comments on Facebook, while Keiron was undergoing surgery, won approval from many of his friends who chose to indicate that they ‘liked’ them.
Only one friend, a girl called Sophie Ash, was brave enough — and decent enough — to challenge him.
Responding to his claim that if he had ‘trespassed on a police dog’s territory’ he would have been attacked, she told him: ‘Difference is, police dogs are trained to bite criminals, not bite innocent little boys! You should feel guilty.’
Later, she added: ‘Clearly it is Shovi’s fault when it’s his f****** dog.’
Is there anyone, apart from Shovell King and his sick cronies, who would disagree with her?
Additional reporting: Tim Stewart and Nic North