United Kingdom

Schizophrenic woman not guilty of murder of girl, 7, in Bolton park

A woman who stabbed a seven-year-old girl to death in front of her parents in a park on Mother's Day has been found not guilty of her murder today. 

Eltiona Skana used a craft knife to slash the neck of Emily Jones in a seemingly random attack in Queen's Park, Bolton.

The 30-year-old had been accused of Emily's murder but on the seventh day of her trial at Manchester Crown Court, the jury was told the prosecution were discontinuing the case.

In a dramatic move, prosecutor Michael Brady said there was now no realistic prospect of a conviction and the judge Mr Justice Wall asked the jury to formally return a not guilty verdict.

Emily Jones was killed by Skana as she was riding her scooter through Queen's Park, Bolton, on Mother's Day

Parents pay tribute to 'light of our lives' Emily

After Emily died, her parents released a heart wrenching tribute to their seven-year-old daughter. 

It read: 'Emily was seven-years-old, our only child and the light of our lives.

'She was always full of joy, love and laughter.

'Emily had such a cheeky smile and was beautiful inside and out. She had a heart as big as her smile.

'Emily was never happier than when she was spending time with her family and friends, she was our own little social butterfly.

'Emily had a passion for the outdoors and loved to play any sport, even when she was wearing her pink sparkly dresses.

'We are beyond devastated that this random act of violence means that we will never get to see our beautiful little girl grow up into the wonderful young lady she was showing such promise of becoming.

'It is truly heart breaking to wake up to a world without Emily in it and we cannot comprehend why this has happened.

'We would like to thank the members of the public that assisted us in the park and express our gratitude to the emergency services for doing their upmost to save Emily's life.

'Thank you to everyone for their kind messages of support and for continuing to respect our privacy at this difficult time.'

Emily had visited Queen's Park in Bolton with her father Mark Jones and mother Sarah Barnes on March 22, this year. 

Prior to the attack, which happened around 2.15pm, a woman - believed to be Skana - had been spotted in the park by a witness who described her as as looking 'agitated' and with a 'vacant' look on her face.   

Michael Brady QC, prosecuting, told the court that although Emily's mother was no longer in a relationship with her father she'd gone for a run in the park and had arranged to meet both of them there.

Emily, who'd been doing 'laps' on her scooter, spotted her mother in the distance.

She told her father, 'Daddy, daddy. I want to go to mum' and she'd scooted off.

Emily also called out to her mother, who didn't hear her due to distance between them and the fact she was hearing headphones.

The court heard how Skana - a paranoid schizophrenic - was sitting on a bench and armed with a craft knife that was one of a pack of three she'd bought earlier that day from a shop in Bolton town centre.

She stood up as Emily rode past her on a scooter and in 'one movement slit her throat' with the craft knife and thew her to the ground. 

Mr Brady said: 'Emily's path towards her mum took her past the defendant who, as Emily scooted by, grabbed her and in one movement slit her throat with the craft knife and then threw her to the ground.

'There had been no interaction between Emily and the defendant. The wound was unsurvivable and Emily died shortly after.'

Emily's father had seen a person on the bench standing over his daughter but assumed Emily had fallen off her scooter and was being helped up.

But he'd then heard a woman shout: 'She's been stabbed'. 

He went to Emily and saw she was bleeding from the neck and tried to comfort her, before a member of the public handed him his shirt to try and stem the flow of blood from Emily's neck.

A woman, believed to be a trained nurse, took over first aid and by this stage Mr Jones was 'frantic'.

Emily's 'inconsolable' mother then arrived and watched as paramedics who'd been called to scene as they battled to try to save their daughter.

But Emily had suffered a cardiac arrested and was airlifted to Salford Royal hospital, where was pronounced dead shortly before 4pm.

Emily had visited Queen's Park in Bolton (pictured, police at the park after the killing) with her father Mark Jones and mother Sarah Barnes on March 22, this year

Floral and cuddly toy tributes to the seven-year-old. Following her death, Emily's parents paid tribute to her, describing their only child as the 'light of our lives'

Skana ran off still armed with the knife but at some point placed it in her backpack, where it was later recovered.

Mr Brady said a passer-by, Tony Canty, who been out for a walk with his wife and daughter witnessed Skana 'manhandling' and 'screaming' at Emily and pushing her to the ground.

Skana screamed: 'She tried to kill me.'

She then repeated it as she ran past Mr Canty.

At that stage, Mr Canty 'had no idea how serous the situation was, he hadn't seen a knife and didn't realise that Emily had been fatally wounded,' Mr Brady said.

But he was 'sufficiently' concerned to run after Skana, with his wife shouting after him that she had a knife.

He briefly lost sight of Skana but soon caught up with her and either 'barged or pushed' her to the ground.

Skana fell on to her back and Mr Canty was able to detain her until the police arrived.

Mr Brady said that as Mr Canty sat on top Skana she started rambling about the 'Home Office, her family and that he had killed 'the girl.'

When Mr Canty telephoned and told them that a young girl had been involved, Skana responded: 'I'm a girl, I'm a child.'

The seven-year-old had been riding to meet her mother when the defendant sprang from a bench, grabbed her and cut her throat with a craft knife she had bought that morning. Pictured, officers at the scene

Psychiatric experts had told the jury that she had a history of mental illness, had paranoid schizophrenia and had killed Emily in a psychotic episode.

But the prosecution had claimed that she was hiding behind the diagnosis and had planned to kill. 

Today, prosecution barrister Michael Brady QC told the jury that the Crown Prosecution Service would no longer pursue a murder charge and asked them to find Skana not guilty of that offence.

Speaking to the jury, he said the prosecution had decided that was 'no longer any realistic prospect of conviction' for murder.

'This is not a decision that has been taken lightly by the Crown,' he said. 'It's a decision taken with care and mindful of the sensitivity of this case.'

He explained that the decision to drop the charge had come following evidence from Dr Saifullah Syed Afghan - a consultant forensic psychiatrist who is treating Skana at Rampton Hospital.

He told the court he had no 'alternative' explanation for her actions on March 22, aside from previous explanations of psychosis brought on by her diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia.

The jury then found Skana not guilty of murder.

The sentencing for manslaughter is expected to take place next Tuesday.

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