A HEROIN addict whose Mastiff dog mauled a young girl's pet in a Darlington park has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

And the court heard that just a week before the incident Craig Beasley, 21, of High Northgate, Darlington, had allegedly let the dog off the lead in the presence of an Asian family and said: "Kill the Muslims".

Beasley was looking after the sandy-coloured dog, named Rocky, for a friend who was in prison, when he took it for a walk in North Lodge Park on March 18.

Claire Irving, prosecuting, said the Mastiff suddenly attacked a French bull dog, named Bobby, which was being walked by its young owner.

Passersby tried to get Rocky to release its grip by kicking it and finally managed to get it off by squirting water in its face.

A witness said the dog was 'aggressive' and that the girl had come to him and the defendant's dog was 'killing' her dog.

Ms Irving said: "When the defendant heard police sirens he became agitated and pulled a large knife from his waistband.

"He handed it to a friend."

Another witness then tackled Beasley to the floor until the police arrived. He told police that a lady with two children approached him and told him she had been approached by Beasley a week previously, when he shouted 'kill the Muslims' and tried to set the Mastiff dog on them.

The fate of the bulldog was unknown as the court had not received the updated information from the police, Ms Irving said.

But just three days after attack Beasley breached his police bail conditions by taking Rocky out again, off the lead and unmuzzled.

The Crown Prosecution service applied for an order to destroy the dog but magistrates refused as the dog's owner was not present.

Elizabeth Aisbill, mitigating on behalf of Beasley, said he was extremely apologetic. He had been burgled two months ago and believed he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and had the dog as company.

On the day of the attack, she said Beasley had tried to stay away from the girl and her dog as Rocky had displayed aggressive behaviour before.

She said: "He is a heroin user. He gets through £40 of heroin on a daily basis. He is receiving help from the North East Council on Addictions."

However probation officers said Beasley had missed a number of his NECA appointments and he wasn't as far along with rehab as they hoped.

Beasley admitted having a dangerously out of control dog, possessing an knife and possessing amphetamine.

Magistrates handed him a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, ordered him to pay £85 costs, a £115 victim surcharge and £150 compensation.

They ordered that both the knife and drugs were destroyed and banned him from owning a dog for three years.