IT WAS a quiet night in a suburban street, with no hint of the mayhem to come.
Just before 8pm, Ayen Chol, four - an artistic, talkative girl, according to her mother - was watching television with her cousins when a pitbull terrier cross ran into the house and attacked her.
A cousin, Anglina Mayout, 31, suffered bite wounds to her hands and arms and her daughter, Nyadeng Goaer, 5, was bitten on the back of the head in the attack in the Melbourne suburb of St Albans on Wednesday night.
Ayen's mother, Jackline Anchito, said yesterday her daughter had tried to fight off the dog. ''She was a loving child, and a very clever child. She died as she was struggling for her life,'' she said.
Neighbours told of the horrific scene inside the house, including desperate attempts to revive the girl.
One neighbour said he was inside his house when he heard Ayen's mother screaming for help on the street.
He ran to the red brick home and saw Ayen lying on the floor with serious wounds to her head.
The neighbour, who did not want to be identified, tried to resuscitate her after receiving instructions over the phone from paramedics.
''It's something that I will have to live with for a long time,'' the distraught man said. ''We were just trying to revive her and we couldn't do anything about it.''
He said the owner of the dog had raced to the victim's home and dragged the animal home, before returning to the scene.
He said the owner was ''devastated'' after the attack.
The animal was destroyed by the council yesterday. The council said the dog was not registered, as all dogs are required to be, and had not had any complaints made about it.
The owner, a 30-year-old man, was questioned by police, who said he was co-operative.
Anisah Mama, who lives next door to the house where the dog lived, said she had been scared in the past for her two children, aged nine and 13.
''Actually this dog is quite aggressive,'' she said.
Ms Mama said she had never talked to the victim's family, but had seen them on the street and the children playing outside.
''I can say they are good people. They are fun-loving people,'' she said. ''It's very awful, very sad.''
The Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, said such attacks were unacceptable and the government would try and outlaw dangerous dogs as soon as possible.
''There cannot be a more tragic situation than to see a young child like this killed in this horrible, horrible way,'' he said.
with David Rood and Nino Bucci