The first pictures have emerged of Natasha Johnston, the “stoic” and “sensible” young dog walker who was mauled to death by dogs at a Surrey beauty spot.
The 28-year-old died from “multiple penetrating dog bites to the neck” and a wound to her left jugular vein in the attack on Jan 12, an opening inquest at Surrey Coroner’s Court heard last month.
Ms Johnston, a professional dog walker from Croydon in south London, was killed by shock and a haemorrhage at a viewpoint and bridle path in Gravelly Hill, near Caterham.
Until now, no pictures have been released of Ms Johnston, who had also remained publicly unnamed for two weeks after the attack, with little known about her life.
But on Saturday night, a friend of Ms Johnston sent The Telegraph a touching image of her cradling her own dog, a golden labradoodle, as they both enjoy the sunshine.
The picture was taken in spring 2020, likely making it the most recent one to be released.
It comes after a friend of Ms Johnston approached The Telegraph last month to give the first tribute, insisting that Ms Johnston “was not new to dogs” having walked them for around five years and “worked really hard” training them, while revealing a “stoic”, sporty, funny and ordinary person with her life ahead of her.
The friend told The Telegraph: “She was tall, a very sensible and quiet person, she was very confident but quietly confident. She had really lovely light blonde hair and sometimes she would dye it in pastille shades and I would always ask her about her hair.
“She’s not a person who would rip people off or do awful things, she was a person living a straight-forward life, living with her dad, driving a beat-up car, walking dogs and loving animals.”
The friend added: “I remember she went camping once and went canoeing and things like that… I never thought it could be anyone I knew, I just can’t believe that this has happened to her.”
Ms Johnston, who grew up on the Isle of Wight, owned a golden doodle or a labradoodle and had previously owned a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and, the friend understood via another friend, had taken in a rescue dog.
More friends have now stepped forward to remember Ms Johnston, who reportedly attended state school then worked as a carer until she left the island around 2017, before becoming a professional dog walker more recently.
Jo Butchers, 34, a friend of Ms Johnston from her childhood home of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, told The Mail on Sunday: “Long countryside walks with the dogs were her thing. She did a lot of dog walking here, not as a professional but with her own dogs and those of friends.
“Then she moved away and that became her job in London. She grew up with dogs, so she always loved them.”
The mother of a childhood friend also told the newspaper: “We’re absolutely devastated. She was so caring, a beautiful girl inside and out… I know there will be a lot of people going up to her funeral.”
Since the attack, eight dogs have been seized and remain in private kennels for forensic tests. None were banned breeds, with two Dachshunds and an 11-stone Leonberger named Shiva among them.
It is not known how many dogs Ms Johnston was walking, given one other woman sustained minor injuries, but the death sparked national concern about confusing licensing regulations.
The full inquest into Ms Johnston’s death is due to take place in June.