Woman mauled to death by dogs in Surrey is named

Dog walker scene
Dog walker scene

The dog walker who was mauled to death by dogs at a Surrey beauty spot has finally been named.

Natasha Johnston, 28, from London, died in a frenzied attack by the animals at Gravelly Hill, near Caterham, on Jan 12.

An inquest into the tragedy will open at Surrey Coroner’s Court on Tuesday.

Eight dogs were seized at the scene, with forensic analysis still ongoing, and police said no prosecutions will be brought against individuals.

The Surrey coroner had refused to release the name of the dog walker on Friday, a day after the police closed their investigation and handed the coroner a file, despite a requirement to make it public.

The coroner had rejected arguments, made over multiple days by The Telegraph, stressing the public interest and the principle of open justice surrounding inquests.

Tributes to the victim were left at the scene
Tributes to the victim were left at the scene

It comes amid heightened concern among dog walkers and locals in south London and Surrey after two weeks with little information about what happened at Gravelly Hill.

Ms Johnston was with eight dogs when a number of them turned on her as she walked them on the North Downs Way.

None of the dogs were banned breeds, with two Dachshunds and an 11-stone Leonberger among them. At least two of the dog owners live in the South Croydon area of London.

As she tried to fight off the dogs, she is understood to have screamed at two horsewomen who stumbled on the scene to “go back”. Locals also claimed that, a few days before her death, the dog walker was “agitated and struggling to control” the pets in her care.

In an earlier statement, the family of Ms Johnston, who at that point had not been named, said it was an “extremely difficult time”.

There was no answer at the semi-detached, three-bedroomed, red-bricked home last night where she is thought to have lived with her father.

Ms Johnston had started dog-walking only recently, but had always seemed to be in control, neighbours of her family said last night.

“Natasha is a dog walker," one neighbour said. “She’s only been doing it recently. She takes them off in her car and comes back with them.

“She always seems in control of them and they seem to love her. She’s not long moved in with her dad. She always wears a sock hat when it’s cold."

The neighbour added that she also had helped a neighbour train their dog. “We always say hello to each other when we see each other.”

The fatal attack prompted concern over contradictory regulations, with councils setting different limits on the number of dogs that can be walked by one person. Croydon Council allows four per handler, while Tandbridge District Council, covering the area where the attack took place, allows six.

The number of injuries from dog bites has been increasing in recent years. Between 1998 and 2018, hospital admissions for dog-related injuries doubled in England, with about 8,000 people admitted each year.