HORRIFIED neighbours today told how an elderly woman was left with serious injuries after being savaged by a police dog which was searching for a suspected criminal.

The 73-year-old woman, who is believed to be suffering from cancer, had allowed police to release their search dog into her Middlesbrough garden.

But neighbours said the black German shepherd ran into her home and police confirmed she was left with “bites about her body.”

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Several people said they saw blood on the woman’s face as paramedics, who first treated her at the scene, took her to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Cleveland Police had stopped a car nearby as part of a drugs operation but the driver escaped on foot sometime after 8pm last night.

Police gave chase and a number of homes and properties had been searched around the Park End area of Middlesbrough when they asked the elderly woman if they could search her garden on Penrith Road at about 9.30pm.

Several witnesses said the dog ran into the woman’s home. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) has been informed and will investigate. The dog has been taken off duties and its fate is yet to be determined.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said the police and dog handler had previously searched her house nearby with her young children inside.

She said: “The dog had seemed fine and it actually helped me and my children to feel safer. There was a big operation and we were out to see what was going on.

"The bobby who had the dog had his head in his hands afterwards and he seemed to be crying. I felt a bit sorry for him.”

Jack Williams, 20, who lives directly next door to the woman in the semi-detached homes, said: “She’s been in and out of hospital and is really quite housebound now. Her son is always down looking after her. She’s private and very quiet and just a really nice person."

A middle-aged woman who lives directly opposite the victim said: “She’s been very ill but she sees a lot of her son and granddaughter. Her granddaughter was down today and said she’s as well as can be expected.

"She used to do a lot of work in charity shops and I just hope she’s okay."

Assistant Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, Sean White said: “Our main concern at present is for the welfare of the lady and her family, we deeply regret what has happened and we wish her a full recovery from her injuries.”

The man who police were chasing has not been caught. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Cleveland Police on the non-emergency number 101.