A woman with a history of violence and mental health problems who confessed to killing seven-year-old Emily Jones, has been cleared of murder.
Eltiona Skana, 30, admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility but was on trial in the crown court in Manchester after pleading not guilty to murder.
The judge, Mr Justice Wall, directed the jury to formally return a not guilty verdict after the prosecution withdrew the murder charge and offered no further evidence. The move came after the court heard testimony on Thursday from a consultant forensic psychiatrist treating Skana at the high-security Rampton hospital in Nottinghamshire.
Michael Brady QC, prosecuting, told the court there was no realistic prospect of a conviction on the murder charge. Mr Justice Wall will sentence Skana for manslaughter on Tuesday.
Emily had gone to Queen’s Park in Bolton with her father, Mark Jones, on the afternoon of Mother’s Day and was riding her scooter when she spotted her mother, Sarah Barne, jogging. She was calling out to her mother as she scooted past the park bench where Skana was sitting, alone and armed with a craft knife. Skana grabbed Emily and cut her throat, before running off.
The defendant was later detained under the Mental Health Act.
The prosecution had alleged that, although it was accepted Skana suffered mental health difficulties, it was for the jury to decide whether this was a case of murder, rather than manslaughter. It questioned whether Skana’s poor mental health was a “convenient excuse” for her actions.
Prosecutors told the jury of a conversation between Skana and a nurse in Rampton that pointed to the attack being planned, and therefore a calculated killing rather than manslaughter. Skana told the nurse: “It was premeditated, I waited in a park and picked my victim, I did what I did then tried to run away.”
But the court was told the conversation took place at a time when Skana was not taking her anti-psychotic medication at the hospital. The court heard Skana, originally from Albania, came to the UK in 2014 and had been having monthly injections of anti-psychotic drugs since 2017. She told medics this medication had caused her mental health to deteriorate and she began taking tablets instead.
From mid-December 2019 until 11 March, Skana had no face-to-face contact with her mental health workers, the jury heard.
Earlier, in 2017, Skana had stabbed her mother, and in another incident attacked her sister and had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals three times.
Dr Syed Afghan, her consultant at Rampton, agreed Skana became psychotically violent when not taking her medication. Simon Csoka QC, defending, asked him: “You would agree that there’s ample evidence in her past medical history of paranoid schizophrenia? Remitting and relapsing and leading to psychotic violence when in relapse?”
Afghan replied: “Violence while under psychosis, while she’s been psychotic she’s been violent, yes.”