Aftermath of a fatal dog attack


Irishman Maurice Sullivan was mauled to death by two dogs in Malaysia in January. An ensuing legal battle has only brought more stress to his grieving family

ON SUNDAY, January 9th, Frances Crowe received a shocking phone call. Her 51-year-old brother, Maurice Sullivan, had died after being attacked by dogs.

Sullivan, a native of Waterford city, had been working and travelling in Malaysia. In January, he and his Polish partner, Agnieszka Jablonska, volunteered to work on the organic farm of Beatrice and Joseph Teoh, on Penang Island. They arrived on Saturday, January 8th, and spent the night with the Teohs and their four pit-bull cross-breeds.

“Maurice got up in the night and went outside,” says Jablonska. “The dog was barking when he came back. He said, ‘The dog was really going after me.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ because we talked about the dogs . . . the night before. We were wondering why they keep this breed. [The Teohs] said for protection from wild animals . . . [Joseph] said they are the most loyal dogs you can get. Maurice was saying, ‘You have to raise them well, otherwise you have a problem.’ ‘I can assure you they will never bite,’ [Joseph said].”

Next morning, while Sullivan was planting trees on the farm, he was attacked by two of the dogs. Jablonska witnessed the attack, along with Beatrice Teoh.

“I heard him scream,” says Jablonska. “He was saying something like ‘Stop!’ . . . I started running . . . The dog was pulling him from the back of his leg; both of them were, really . . . He looked at me and said, ‘Help!’

“They made him fall, and he rolled over from the hill; Beatrice came running down. She laid down on top of Maurice, protecting him, but they were biting him underneath her, and she couldn’t do anything. And I couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t protect himself with his hand any more.”

Beatrice managed to remove one dog, but the other continued to attack, biting Sullivan’s neck. “Maurice was like a puppet,” says Jablonska. “I asked him to get up, please, get up . . . He was really trying to stand up, but he couldn’t. Then he said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ I said, ‘You are going to bleed to death.’ He said, ‘I am already dead.’ ”

Sullivan died that day. An autopsy confirmed the cause of death as massive haemorrhaging from the extensive injuries inflicted by the animals.

After his death a debate ensued about what would become of the dogs. A court ruling called for all four to be put down, but this was later appealed to the Malaysian high court. Months later, the dogs that had caused his death had still not been put down.

The stress of the legal case compounded his family’s grief. “We had to finally engage a lawyer, and he went to court with a letter from Maurice’s 15-year-old son,” says Crowe. “They finally came to the conclusion that the two dogs should be put down.” The animals were killed on July 14th. The couple’s two other dogs were returned to the farm on condition that they be kept locked up.

Sullivan’s family and partner have recounted the story for an RTÉ Radio 1 documentary by Sarah Blake, in order to tell his story in full and to dispel some myths that circulated.

According to one, Sullivan and Jablonska had wandered into the path of two savage dogs while taking photographs. Another said they had taken a wrong turn into a prohibited area. Neither report was true.

The Teohs were approached through their lawyer to participate in the documentary, to be broadcast today, but declined.

“The dogs’ being put down did conclude it a little bit for us,” says Crowe. “No one else is going to be hurt by those dogs. Maurice was a free spirit. He lived his life in a simple manner. But his life ended in a horrific way.”

Maurice – A Final Journeyis on RTÉ Radio 1 at 6.05pm today