Paranoid schizophrenic woman who slit girl’s throat in park sentenced to life imprisonment

A paranoid schizophrenic woman who slit the throat of a seven-year-old girl with a craft knife in a park on Mother’s Day has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of eight years, to be served in a high-security hospital.

Eltiona Skana, 30, got up from a bench and randomly attacked Emily Jones as she went past on a scooter, calling out, “Mummy! Mummy!” to her mother jogging round Queen’s Park, Bolton on March 22.

Skana (pictured) had a long history of mental illness and had not been taking her anti-psychotic medication, Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, heard.

The defendant admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility but was put on trial for murder.

The trial collapsed last week and the prosecution offered no further evidence after hearing evidence from the psychiatrist treating Skana at high-security Rampton Hospital.

She appeared in the dock for sentence surrounded by hospital staff.

Passing sentence Mr Justice Wall ordered that Skana serve her sentence at Rampton Hospital and will be subject to restrictions under the Mental Health Act, to only be released if she no longer poses a risk to the public.

He told the defendant: “The facts of this case are chilling.

“The background to the killing is your enduring mental health condition.”

He said that despite her mental illness Skana retained “a significant amount of responsibility”, which merited punishment by him passing not a hospital order but a “hybrid” order, meaning the defendant will go to prison for the remainder of her eight-year sentence if her condition improves sufficiently.

Emily had been taken to the park by her father Mark Jones, 49, on the Sunday afternoon of Mother’s Day earlier this year, and was on her scooter when she spotted her mother, solicitor Sarah Barnes, 42, who was jogging.

Emily said “daddy, daddy, I want to go to mum”, and scooted off.

As she did, she passed Skana, alone on a bench armed with a knife bought earlier that day.

Skana stood up, pulled her hood up and grabbed the girl, slitting her throat before running away, but was tackled to the ground nearby by a member of the public, Tony Canty.

Mr Jones cradled his dying daughter, telling her: “Just stay with me Emily, stay with me. Don’t leave me,” he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

The girl was taken by air ambulance to Salford Royal Hospital, but Emily had gone into cardiac arrest and, with her mother at her bedside, she was pronounced dead at 3.56pm.

Mr Jones has criticised Skana’s mental health care.

The trial heard the defendant, who first came to the UK from her native Albania in 2014 after claiming asylum, had a long history of mental illness.

She had not been taking her anti-psychotic drugs and had only been seen once by her mental health nurse in the three months before the killing.

Skana was detained under the Mental Health Act after her arrest.

She later told a nurse at Rampton: “It was premediated, I waited in a park and picked my victim, I did what I did then tried to run away.”

Prosecutors claimed this showed the killing was planned and therefore amounted to murder.

But it later emerged Skana made the remark after being taken off her anti-psychotic drug treatment and the prosecution withdrew the murder charge.

Mr Justice Wall queried the level of “residual responsibility” despite Skana’s illness, because she appeared to be aware of her actions, had purchased the knife and had run away after the attack.

And he questioned why she had also concealed the fact she was not taking her medication from her health workers.

Simon Csoka QC, mitigating, cited expert psychiatric evidence which suggested concealment and non-compliance with taking medication was often part of the illness for paranoid schizophrenics.

He said: “We contend all the evidence, including the psychiatric evidence heard at the trial, that the driver for this offence is the defendant’s mental illness.”

Psychiatrist Dr Helen Whitworth told the hearing: “In reality I don’t think this was wilful deceit. This was a woman who did not understand she was mentally ill.

“In my opinion Miss Skana needs to be therapeutically medicated at all times, probably for the rest of her life.”

Senior investigating officer Duncan Thorpe, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “This was an absolutely devastating incident that has left Emily’s parents and family completely heartbroken and I know it sent shockwaves across the country as everyone mourned the loss of this innocent little girl.

“Emily was taken from her family and friends in the worst possible way.”

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, responsible for Skana’s care, has said a review found Emily’s killing could not have been foreseen.

Skana was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2015 and had been sectioned and treated as an in-patient twice in hospital.

On one occasion she had picked up a knife after claiming neighbours wanted to harm her, and another time she stabbed her mother in the hand.

Skana was initially given injections of anti-psychotic medication but switched to taking it orally through pills while under the care of the community mental health team.

A nurse who visited her on March 11 told the court she did not detect any psychotic symptoms.

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