A woman has gone on trial over the death of seven-year-old Emily Jones.
Eltiona Skana, 31, is accused of murdering the child during an incident in Queens Park, Bolton, on March 22.
She denies the charge.
The defendant, of Ernest Street, Bolton, faces an alternative charge of manslaughter, to which she has previously pleaded guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Skana’s trial will begin before judge Mr Justice Wall at Manchester Minshull Street Crown today (Thursday).
She will appear in court via videolink.
Today’s proceedings are expected to include an opening statement from prosecutor Michael Brady QC, who will set out the case against Skana.
The trial, which was initially planned to start on Monday, November 23, is likely to last at least a week.
CCTV evidence from the day of the incident
The jury is now being shown CCTV footage from March 22
The video, Mr Brady says, shows Skana travelling into Bolton town centre.
The video shows her walking through Victoria Square and into the Crompton Place Shopping Centre.
She visited a shop inside the centre called Pound Empire, where she bought a pack of three ‘craft knives’.
She would then leave the centre and stop at the Poundland store in Victoria Square to buy a drink.
Further evidence from Emily’s father
In his statement, Mark Jones, Emily’s father, explained that he ran towards his daughter after he heard a shout from the couple in front of him.
When he arrived, she was ‘bleeding from her neck’ and he immediately bent down to her, the jury hears.
In the following minutes, people tried to help the youngster, with one man offering his shirt to stem the bleeding while a woman, who Mark believed to be a trained nurse, administered CPR, the court hears.
Emily’s mother Sarah arrived and paramedics were also quickly on the scene.
Despite treatment and an air ambulance rushing Emily to hospital, she died that evening, jurors are told.
Mr Jones said:
I do not know why this happened. She was riding her scooter to meet her mum and wasn’t causing any problems.
I can’t explain it.
Mr Brady is now reading out a statement from Emily’s father, Mark Jones.
He describes how he had taken the seven-year-old to Queens Park – a place they visited regularly.
They were to meet Emily’s mother, Sarah Barnes.
The couple were no longer together but on good terms, the court hears.
Sarah was planning to go running in the park and had suggested Mark meet her to drop off Emily, jurors are told.
In his statement, Mark described seeing his daughter scooting along a path in the park towards her mother.
She was around 200 yards away and his view was blocked by another couple, but he thought he saw her fall as she past the bench where Skana was sat.
He saw the woman leaning over Emily, but thought she was helping his daughter after she fell.
It was not until the couple in front came closer to Emily and the woman shouted ‘she’s been stabbed’ that he realised what was happening, the jury hears.
Legal issues central to the case
Mr Justice Law is now explaining the legal framework of this case to the jury.
He explains that the prosecution argue this is a murder, whereas the defence say it should be classed as manslaughter as a result of diminished responsibility, in relation to the defendant’s mental illness.
Diminished responsibility, the judge tells the court, comes if she was suffering from an ‘abnormality of mental functioning’ which ‘arose from a recognised medical condition’ and ‘substantially impaired her ability to do one or more of the following: understand the nature of her conduct and/or form a rational judgement and/or exercise self-control’.
This has to have caused or been a ‘significant contributory factor’ in causing Skana to kill Emily.
Psychiatric reports on the defendant
Mr Brady is now explaining part of the prosecutions case to the jury.
He says there are three psychiatrists who have given opinions on the case, Dr Crosby, Dr Whitworth and Dr Afghan.
The first two doctors agree she may have had a ‘psychotic episode’ which led to the incident and has a ‘partial defence’ to murder ‘on the grounds of diminished responsibility’, the court hears.
The jury hears a third doctor, Dr Afghan, does not share this view and is not convinced her mental health problem would have ‘substantially impaired’ her decision making.
Mr Brady is now explaining more about the defendant’s history with psychiatric incidents.
She was admitted to hospital in 2015 for wielding a weapon against her neighbours, and then again in 2017 when she bit her mother, stabbed her through the hand and hit her on the head with an iron, the court hears.
A short time later, she threatened her sister Klestora, who locked herself in the bathroom and called the police, the jury is told.
When officers arrived, Skana had left and gone to the home of a friend, and ‘for no reason’ asked to see this friend’s daughter, jurors hears. She was not allowed to do this.
Court hears of threats to kill staff
Mr Brady is explaining more about Skana’s behaviour at Rampton Hospital, including an incident in which she threatened to kill several members of staff and their families.
When asked about this later, she said she was ‘psychotic’.
He says she suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and had told Dr Afghan that she felt she was ‘fine’ before coming to the UK in 2014.
Defendant was ‘hearing voices’
In a later discussion with a member of staff at Rampton, Mr Pettet, Skana said she had been hearing voices in the run up to Emily’s death, Mr Brady said.
This is contrary to what she had said in earlier interviews, the court is told.
At one point, she told him:
It was pre-mediated, I waited in a park and picked my victim, I did what I did then tried to run away.
Mr Brady tells the jury:
One of the many things you will have to decide during the course of this trial is whether Miss Skana’s admission to Mr Pettet that Emily was targeted in a pre-mediated attack, was a genuine confession, and an indication that she was seeking to hide behind her psychosis, or whether it was something said that wasn’t, or may not have been true.
Skana’s treatment at Rampton Hospital
While at Rampton Hospital, Skana was treated by Dr Afghan, who is quoted a number of times in Mr Brady’s opening statement.
He tells of several incidents while she was at the hospital, including saying she could hear voices and an incident in which she began to speak loudly in what was believed to be Albanian during a game with other patients.
She told one member of staff ‘your body has gone to the soul’ and went on to say other things such as ‘am I going to die very soon?’ and ‘you are all going to die’.
The court hears that later, when asked about the incident, she said:
What came from my mouth was not me, it was the father – what you call God.
Defendant transferred to Rampton Hospital
Mr Brady is continuing to explain the prosecution’s case.
He has begun by talking about a conversation between Skana and Dr Sullivan at the Edenfield Medical Centre.
The defendant told the doctor she had been out on the morning of Emily’s death to buy a knife, because she felt ‘unsafe’, although she could not explain why, the court hears.
She would later be transferred to the Rampton Hospital, in Nottinghamshire, a secure psychiatric hospital, where she is currently living.
Jury and judge back in court
The hearing has resumed.
Break for lunch
Mr Brady has completed part of his opening statement and the jury have been told they can take a lunch break.
We will continue our coverage after 2pm.
Skana interviewed by doctors
Police arrested Skana at the scene, Mr Brady tells the jury, and she was taken to North Manchester police station.
She was assessed by an on-call doctor, Dr Farrell, the court hears.
She told him she was a ‘paranoid schizophrenic’ and told him she sometimes heard voices and would ‘get violent’, Mr Brady says.
She said this had not happened in the days leading up to the incident, the court hears.
He described her as ‘guarded and suspicious’ during the interview. She was later sent to the Edenfield Centre in Prestwich for further treatment.
Paramedics efforts to save Emily
An air ambulance was called and arrived at the park, paramedics were also there and tried to save Emily’s life, Mr Brady tells the court.
She was flown to Salford Royal and went into cardiac arrest, they tried to restart her heart, but could not.
There came a point when it was decided that it was no longer in Emily’s interest to continue.
At 3.56pm, with Emily’s mum in the room with her – Mr. Jones had chosen to remain in the visitors’ room – resuscitation was terminated, and in the language of medics, life was pronounced extinct. ‘In language of the rest of us, Emily was dead’.
More from walker who chased defendant
Mr Canty, who chased Skana as she fled the scene, also heard her say a number of things while he held her waiting for the police, Mr Brady says.
Skana told the man: “She tried to kill me,” seemingly referring to Emily.
She also mentioned injections and pigs and said Emily had tried to kill her family, the court is told.
‘Emily didn’t even have time to react’: What witnesses saw
Hassan Ahmed and his wife Florentina Cioara spotted Emily as she was travelled by Skana on the bench, the court hears.
Mr Brady explains to the court what Mr Ahmed saw.
Mr Ahmed saw Emily on her scooter shouting for her mum and noticed a woman he at first told the police was sitting, but subsequently said was lying on what he described as a chair who stood up, put her hood up, grabbed Emily from behind and saw the movement of the defendant’s arm as she immediately cut Emily’s throat with what he assumed was a knife.
It all happened so quickly that Emily didn’t have time to react.
Father’s reaction to the incident
Emily, the court hears, told her father: “Daddy, daddy. I want to go to mum.”
After seeing her mother in the park, Mr Brady tells the court.
He let her go and she scooted off.
He saw her go by the bench where Skana was sitting and watched the defendant stand up and move towards his daughter, jurors are told.
He thought she had fallen off the scooter and was being helped, the court hears.
The jury hears someone shouted: “She’s been stabbed.”
Mr Jones ran over and cradled her, Mr Brady says.
Members of the public tried to help and a woman, thought to be a nurse, tried first aid.
Her parents then waited with her while paramedics tried to save their daughter.
Prosecution’s case explained
Addressing the jury, Mr Brady explained the prosecution’s case.
At an earlier hearing in these proceedings the defendant entered a guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, a partial defence to murder.
Although it is accepted that Miss Skana does have and has had mental health difficulties for a number of years it is for you, the jury, to decide whether this is a case of murder rather than manslaughter.
Defendant chased down by walker
Skana then ran from the scene, Mr Brady tells the court.
She was spotted by another couple who were walking in the area with their own daughter – Tony Canty and his wife Lynsey.
Mr Canty saw what had happened and ran after Skana.
Mr Brady said:
He is unable to recall whether he shoulder barged or pushed her to the ground, he thinks pushed, but he did cause the defendant to fall onto her back at which point he straddled her in order to detain her until the police arrived.
While he was holding Skana, Mr Canty heard her ‘rambling and rambling’, the court hears.
Prosecutor’s opening statement begins
The case is beginning with an opening statement from the prosecutor Michael Brady QC.
A jury has been sworn in this morning and Eltiona Skana, who stands charged with Emily Jones’ murder, is appearing via a videolink
.Mr Brady explained that Emily was riding her scooter in Queens Park at 2.15pm on March 22 last year with her father, Mark Jones.
They were meeting her mother Sarah Barnes, who had gone out for a run in the park.
Skana was also in the park, sat at a bench with a craft knife she had bought earlier.
Emily saw her mother in the distance and decided to scoot towards her.
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 there after.