Boy, nine, left with a gaping hole in his leg by ‘poisonous spider’

Boy, nine, is left with a gaping inch-wide hole in his leg after he was bitten by a ‘poisonous spider which caused his flesh to decay’

  • Bobby Barnett was taken to his doctor and GP but they thought it was a gnat bite
  • At home, his mother Emma Canvey panicked as his wound became bigger
  • He ended up in hospital leaving Ms Canvey wishing she’d ‘trusted her instinct’

A boy has been left with a gaping hole in his leg after being bitten by a poisonous spider, his mother claims.

Bobby Barnett, nine, was taken to his GP and A&E, where it was believed he had simply been bitten by a tiny insect called a gnat.

He was sent home with antibiotics, but over the next few days, Bobby’s mother Emma Barnett, 34, panicked as the wound grew. 

It rapidly turned into a gaping and infected hole and he had to be rushed to hospital near his home of Canvey, Essex. 

Ms Barnett claims doctors told her that the poison from the spider’s bite had eaten away at the flesh.

Bobby Barnett, nine, of Canvey, Essex, has been left with a gaping hole in his leg after being bitten by a poisonous spider, his mother claims

Bobby was taken to his GP and doctors at A&E, who both believed he had simply suffered a gnat bite. They prescribed antihistamines and later, antibiotics

Ms Barnett, a primary school teacher, claims doctors told her that the poison from the spider’s bite had eaten away at the flesh. Pictured, while in its worse state 

Bobby has been ‘scarred for life’, his mother said. His case comes just weeks after experts warned dangerous spiders are increasing in numbers in the UK.

Ms Barnett, a primary school teacher, said: ‘It was shocking seeing the decaying flesh. My mum has a strong stomach but she gagged straight away.

‘We took him back to A&E and he was put on an IV drip and they confirmed it was a spider bite and that the poison had begun eating his flesh.

‘I just knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t want to tell a doctor how to do their profession, but I wished I’d have trusted my gut as his mum.’

Ms Barnett told The Echo her son reacts to gnat bites, which look similar to mosquito bites, quite badly and that they are itchy. 

He was bitten on the Monday, but by the Thursday it had become swollen and so Ms Barnett applied Savlon, an anti-septic cream.

By the end of the day, the after school club Bobby attends called his mother to say he was limping on his leg.

Teachers lifted his trousers and found his bite was weeping so he was taken for an emergency appointment at the GP. 

Bobby, pictured in hospital during the ordeal, was bitten on the Monday. By the Sunday – after two trips to see doctors – he was on an IV drip

The GP said it was an uninfected bite and he was given antihistamine and pain relief and told to return if it didn’t improve within 24 hours.

But Ms Barnett said: ‘The way the bite was looking I just knew it was infected so I was quite surprised when the nurse just prescribed antihistamine and pain relief. 

‘Then while Bobby was with his Nan, she called me and said we need to take him to hospital as it looked really infected.’

At an emergency appointment at Orsett Hospital, the wound was dressed and Bobby was given antibiotics, to Ms Barnett’s relief.

She said: ‘We were told to leave a dressing on for 48 hours. After 48 hours we lifted up the dressing and I was devastated.’

The wound wasn’t improving and had become inflamed. By the Sunday, the flesh had started to fall away.   

After doctors admitted Bobby had been bitten by a spider, Ms Barnett said they were seen by Broomfield Hospital to decide if he needed plastic surgery.

They said Bobby did not need plastic surgery but told Ms Barnett to keep a close eye on the wound and to look out for signs of sepsis.  

Ms Barnett said: ‘He will be scarred for life, but he has been so amazing throughout it all,’ she said. 

Scientists in February have warned a large spider which resembles a black widow is spreading rapidly across the world, including the UK.  

The Noble False Widow, Steatoda nobilis, native to Madeira and the Canary Islands, has been present in the south of England for more than a hundred years.

But now, after a long period of stasis, it has recently started to appear in the north of England, plus other new locations around the globe. 

Last week, Essex was named as the spider bite capital of the UK, with more spider bites being dealt with in Essex hospitals than the rest of the nation.

Of the 650 species of spider found in the UK, only about 12 species have been recorded as being able to bite humans. 

Of these, only two or three have been known to give a significant bite, according to the Natural History Museum. 

Some spiders are venomous and their bites can cause nausea, vomiting, sweating and dizziness. 

Bites can also become infected or cause a severe allergic reaction in rare cases, according to the NHS.


False widow spiders are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns.

Millions of false widows, Britain’s most venomous spider, have been found across the UK and the population is believed to be growing.

The species has a brown bulbous abdomen with cream markings that look like a skull. They have long legs and can reach about 15mm in size.

Also known as steatoda nobilis, the spider is frequently confused for the black widow, which has deadly venom.

The false widow was first spotted in the UK in Torquay, Devon, in 1879, and it is understood that it may have made its way to these shores from Madeira or the Canary Islands in a shipment of bananas.

The Natural History Museum says that warmer summers mean the spider is spreading northwards through the UK, having been found mainly in southern England.

False widow spiders are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns


The first thing you should do is wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to prevent infection – and don’t scratch, as if you break the skin there’s more chance for bacteria to get in.

Cover bites with a plaster and apply an antihistamine sting cream to calm any inflammation or itching, says Stuart Hine, from the Natural History Museum’s identification and advisory service.

Any redness, pain or swelling should subside after three days.

Be alert to potential signs of infection, such as weeping blisters or painful swelling, that continue to get worse after a few days.

If this happens, seek advice from your GP.

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