The grieving father of Emily Jones has pleaded with mental health services not to 'let another child die' like his daughter as her killer's case is set to be reviewed by NHS England.
Seven-year-old Emily was killed by Eltiona Skana as she was riding her scooter through Queen's Park, Bolton, on Mother's Day last year.
She had been riding to meet her mother when stranger Skana sprang from a waiting bench, grabbed her and then sliced her across the neck with a craft knife she had bought that morning.
Skana went on trial for murder in November last year and was found not guilty after prosecution solicitors announced they were dropping the charge.
The 30-year-old had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter at an earlier hearing and was handed a life sentence, with a minimum term of 8 years, but will be detained in hospital and only be sent to prison if her treatment allows it.
The trial heard how Skana suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had delusional thoughts which could sometimes lead to violence.
But she was not seen by any mental health professional for three months in the run up to her fatal assault.
She had also switched from injected medication, which could be monitored by nurses, to tablets, which she was expected to take herself, in the months before Emily's death.
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Now today, on what would have been Emily's eighth birthday, her father Mark Jones has told the Bolton News he wants an apology from the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust, which was responsible for supervising his daughter's killer.
The trust carried out a 'rigorous review' into the mental health service's handling of Skana, which found her actions could not have been 'foreseen'.
The chief executive of the trust, Neil Thwaite, said the review found there were 'no markers of deterioration' in the patient's mental state or other behaviour which could have 'foreseen' the killing.
Mark said the review was 'pretty disgraceful' and he wants to make sure the same thing won't happen again.
“It was pretty disgraceful to be honest because they outlined all these failings, and there were a lot, and at the end of it their finishing line was, ‘we still think the attack on your daughter was unpreventable’, which is ridiculous,” he told the Bolton News.
“Just leaving Skana without medication and knowing she was a threat to the public – there were a lot of failings.
“I have spoken to the CEO on a number of occasions and I have told him, ‘I am going to do my utmost. You need to admit liability here and apologise to my family’.
“I am a big believer that, on that day, if it wasn’t Emily, it would have been somebody else [who was killed] and who is to say this isn’t going to happen again?”
NHS England is now due to carry out an investigation and its own review into the case.
“I blame her [Skana] 75 per cent but I also blame the authorities 25 per cent,” Mark added.
“I have still got plenty to do. I need apologies from people.
“I am taking legal advice at the moment but I am going to wait until the next review before I do anything.”
Mark has joined forces with the charity Hundred Families which campaigns and supports relatives of victims who have been killed by someone with a mental illness.
He believes people with some mental health conditions should not be allowed the option of how or whether they take medication.
“They don’t know what they are doing," Mark said.
“How can you trust someone? If something doesn’t change then somebody else will lose their daughter or their son.
"Another child is going to die.”
Mark and Emily's mum Sarah Barnes will be laying flowers on their daughter's grave today to mark her eighth birthday.
The couple were separated but shared the parenting of Emily, who they described as 'the light of our lives'.
Mark said Christmas was a particularly hard time for them as Emily used to make the festive period 'magical'.
"She changed my Christmases. I had never been a Christmasy person before,” he said.
"I just loved being a dad and we were like best friends. We had so much fun and it was amazing.
“A child a Christmas makes it magical and then she wasn’t here.
“But we felt a bit lucky because it was lockdown. It would have been 10 times worse if it wasn’t.
“I went to a friend’s in the afternoon and we just talked about good times and it was quite nice just to reminisce about the kids and stuff. That got me through the day really.”
Neil Thwaite, chief executive of Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: "On behalf of our Trust, we continue to send our deepest sympathies to everyone who loved and cared for Emily.
“We welcome the decision to commission an independent investigation into this tragic incident.”
NHS England confirmed that an independent investigation into the case will be going ahead, though a timeframe has not been provided.