A PENSIONER concerned about his depressed neighbour made a gruesome discovery when he went into her Ribble Valley caravan.
An inquest heard that Susan Lofthouse (62) was lying dead on her bed and nearly all the flesh on her face had been eaten by her pet Dalmatians.
The hearing was told Miss Lofthouse had doted on the two dogs and even told friends that if anything happened to her they should go to the Dalmatian welfare organisation.
She had spent the previous evening with friends and neighbours Albert and Patricia Charnock at their caravan on the Hackings Caravan Park, Elker Lane, Billington. They had urged her to see her doctor or even contact the Samaritans because of their worries over her wellbeing.
"At the end of the night I gave her a hug and offered to come and stay the night with her, but she said she would be alright," said Mrs Charnock.
They didn't see her walking the dogs the following day, so Mr Charnock went to check on her. He heard the dogs barking and when there was no answer let himself in to Miss Lofthouse's caravan and made his grim find.
PC Jemma Derbyshire said Miss Lofthouse had "horrific" injuries to her face, which she believed had been inflicted by the dogs.
"Her face appeared to have been removed with only a small amount of skin remaining, the rest of it was down to the bone," she said.
Pathologist Dr Neil Sahasrabudhe confirmed that most of the bony parts of the face were exposed. He said one eye ball was intact but the other was missing. He gave the cause of death as compound drug toxicity – that Miss Lofthouse had taken an overdose of medication.
Recording a verdict that Miss Lofthouse killed herself, coroner Michael Singleton said it was clear Mr and Mrs Charnock had befriended Miss Lofthouse and done all they could to help her.
"The events of that day were horrific and I am sure will live with you for the rest of your life," said Mr Singleton.