‘Oh my God, I’m going to lose her’: Father of tragic Emily Jones, 7, recalls harrowing thought when his ‘beautiful little soul mate’ was killed by mental patient – and says he wants her story told because it’s a public outrage
- Eltiona Skana, 30, killed Emily Jones, 7, by slashing her throat with a craft knife
- Emily was grabbed as she rode past her on a scooter in a park in Bolton
- Skana had a history of violence and refused to take anti-psychotic medication
- Emily’s father Mark blames failures by mental health staff for leaving her free
Wearing a navy jacket with red and white spots, seven-year-old Emily Jones was a blur as she zipped up and down on her scooter on a gloriously sunny afternoon in Queen’s Park in Bolton.
Her father Mark encouraged her to go faster along Promenade Terrace, a wide path that runs along the top of a large grassy slope, as he scanned the park for Emily’s mother Sarah.
It was Mother’s Day, the day before Britain was plunged into its first coronavirus lockdown, and Emily had given her mum a card earlier that morning.
Sarah was going for a run in the park in the afternoon and Mark and Emily were planning to watch her jogging before buying an ice cream.
‘I can remember saying to Emily “Go on, you can do your fastest lap” because I used to time her from one end to another,’ Mark said in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday.
‘And then I said, “Right, we are going to see mummy and then once we’ve seen mummy we will go for an ice cream.” And she was like, “Yes, brilliant.” And that was it.’
Seven-year-old Emily Jones’s father Mark (right, and left with Emily) blames failures by mental health staff for leaving paranoid schizophrenic Eltiona Skana, 30, free to kill his daughter
What happened next transformed the quiet Victorian park into a scene of almost unimaginable horror and shattered Mark and his family’s lives forever.
Emily spotted Sarah, 42, running along the bottom of the hill and excitedly said: ‘Daddy, daddy. I want to go to Mum.’ Mark, 49, replied ‘Of course’ and she shot off down a path that snakes its way down the hill.
But as Emily sped towards Sarah – calling out ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!’ to attract her attention – a lone figure sitting on a bench jumped up and grabbed her, put her in a headlock and cut her throat with a craft knife.
Sarah, who was wearing headphones, had not seen or heard Emily and kept running, oblivious to the appalling scene happening nearby. Mark, who was 200 yards away, initially thought his daughter had fallen off her scooter and that the figure holding Emily was helping pick her up, until a woman nearby shouted: ‘She’s been stabbed.’
He sprinted to his grievously wounded daughter but her psychotic attacker had already thrown Emily to the ground and run off. Mark cradled Emily from behind and shouted for help.
It was Mother’s Day, the day before Britain was plunged into its first coronavirus lockdown, and Emily (pictured) had given her mum a card earlier that morning
‘I ran for Emily,’ he said, leaning forward and speaking quietly. ‘I was absolutely terrified. I just knew it was so bad. You don’t survive these things.
‘I just thought, “Oh my God, I’m going to lose her, I’m going to lose her.” I was shouting, “Just stay with me Emily, stay with me. Don’t leave me.”
‘She was just trying to breathe. It was just horrific. I wouldn’t wish anybody to see that happen to their own daughter. On occasions I will go back there. I try not to. But I can just remember her trying to breathe. Just to see your child in that way. I thought, “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening to Emily.” ‘
He frantically phoned Sarah who was still running and unaware of the attack. ‘I called and said “Come back, come back we’ve just seen you. Emily’s been stabbed”,’ Mark recalled. By then, a passer-by had passed him a T-shirt to try to stem the bleeding, while a nurse who had been in the park had taken over first aid.
Emily was flown by air ambulance to Salford Royal Hospital but she died half an hour after her arrival. Last week, her killer Eltiona Skana, a paranoid schizophrenic, was convicted of manslaughter with diminished responsibility. Prosecutors dropped a murder charge on the seventh day of a trial at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester.
Mark, a credit manager for a law firm, and Sarah, a solicitor, separated when Emily (pictured) was three but they remain good friends and live five minutes from each other on the outskirts of Bolton
Mark blames a string of failures by mental health staff for leaving a dangerously psychotic woman free to kill his daughter. He is shocked that more effort was not made to check that she was taking her antipsychotic medication and that she was assessed only once in the three months leading up to Emily’s death.
‘They knew she didn’t comply with oral medication but they allowed her to take it on her own volition. That is a ridiculous thing to do,’ he said. ‘She was a ticking time bomb.’
He is also furious that a review from the local NHS mental health trust came to the astonishing conclusion that Emily’s death could not have been predicted or prevented.
‘You can’t possibly write all these failings and then sum it up at the bottom with ‘we think the incident was not preventable’. It is absolute nonsense. They are just trying to relinquish all responsibility – and she was their responsibility.
‘I want the horrible story of what happened to my daughter to be told. It was Mother’s Day, of all days, when Mum and Dad were in the park with her. It’s not that I want people to feel sorry for us, but it needs to be told because it’s an absolute public outrage.’
Emily was the centre of their world. Sarah looked after their daughter four days a week and Mark would care for her the rest of the time, including on Sundays
Mark, a credit manager for a law firm, and Sarah, a solicitor, separated when Emily was three but they remain good friends and live five minutes from each other on the outskirts of Bolton.
Emily was the centre of their world. Sarah looked after their daughter four days a week and Mark would care for her the rest of the time, including on Sundays. ‘I have such admiration for Sarah and what a brilliant job she did looking after Emily and making her such a polite little girl,’ Mark says. ‘She used to dress her so beautifully all the time and was such a brilliant mum.’
‘People always gush about their children but I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better young person than Emily. ‘She was just an amazing soul – so warm, full-of-life, loved everything, never complained, loved going to school. She had a great sense of humour and was really funny and was always telling me off when I was being daft. She was just a brilliant character, a big character for such a little girl.’
Both parents ensured that Emily’s short life was packed with thrilling experiences. Sarah took her horse riding, swimming and indoor climbing, while Mark took her for skiing lessons at an indoor slope in nearby Manchester and bodyboarding in Wales. Sarah had taken Emily on holiday to Portugal and Spain and Mark was planning to take her away for a break to France.
Both parents ensured that Emily’s short life was packed with thrilling experiences. Sarah took her horse riding, swimming and indoor climbing, while Mark took her for skiing lessons at an indoor slope in nearby Manchester and bodyboarding in Wales. Pictured: Emily
When she was younger, Emily attended Bolton School Nursery. They were long days for Emily, as both Mark and Sarah juggled their demanding jobs with child care, but she thrived and her bubbly personality grew.
‘Every time I went there, Emily would be on the floor covered in muck or she would have paint all over her. She loved it.’
Later, she attended Markland Hill Primary School, which has raised more than £14,000 for a memorial garden in her name. In an online tribute, teachers described a creative little girl who loved to write and draw and who ‘would joke that she had finished before the others had even written the date’.
‘She had a loyal band of young girls who were her friends,’ Mark said. ‘They did say in school, ‘She knows who her friends are and she is fiercely loyal to them.’ ‘
Emily was close to both sets of her grandparents, her uncles, aunties and cousin Eva.
To Mark’s enduring pride, some of the personality of his charismatic father Graham, a former professional footballer, appeared to have influenced her own character.
‘My Dad’s got a big personality and it was definitely rubbing off on her,’ he said.
‘When we went to parents’ evenings at school they always used to say ‘Emily knows what she wants and can be a bit abrupt with other people.’ I’m thinking, ‘Go for it girl’ because my Dad’s always had that – cheeky but polite.’
Sarah’s parents, meanwhile, live in the Lake District and nurtured Emily’s love of the great outdoors through walks on the fells.
‘Ian [Emily’s grandad] loves his walking and misses his walking partner,’ Mark said. Mark remembers one outing near Grasmere when Emily befriended a lone rambler and insisted on keeping him company.
‘This guy was walking by himself and Emily said, ‘Can I walk up with him, he’s by himself’. She was about ten yards in front and they were having such a laugh. He told me afterwards that it was one of the best walks he’d had.’
Mark, a passionate music lover, calls Emily ‘my beautiful little soul mate’. Some of his most cherished memories involve their three visits together to Festival Number 6, a boutique arts and music festival in Portmeirion, North Wales.
He recalls one summer afternoon there especially fondly when Emily was four years old. ‘It was such a good afternoon,’ he said. ‘She was with me in the dance tent when the Rolling Stones came on.
‘She had her wellies and glasses on, like a proper festival goer, and she was dancing away, having a great time. That was what she was like. She loved to dance.
‘She was really active. She would have been such an asset to the community and it’s just such a shame.’
Speaking seven months after Emily’s brutal death, Mark remains haunted by the senseless, random nature of the violence. ‘It was such a lovely sunny Sunday. We were just going to have an ice cream and Sarah was really pleased with her card.
Police (pictured at the scene) were called to Queen’s Park in Bolton, Greater Manchester, on March 22 following reports that a child had been stabbed
‘From that to the absolute horror of me having to phone my mum and telling her Emily had gone. Her crying on the phone. Sarah having to phone her parents. Us all around Sarah’s house at night. It was just horrific. Those days… how we got through them, I really don’t know, to be honest.’
The loss of his only child has left a gaping chasm in his life.
‘We had these responsibilities and this brilliant life of having fun with Emily and her friends. And now everything is just serious. I don’t have that interaction with children any more. That’s pretty difficult.’
He has had to reassure his own friends that seeing their children will not worsen his own feelings of grief. ‘I used to interact with my friend’s children but they are sometimes a bit wary because it might bring back bad memories. I’ve said, ‘No, I still want to see your children. It doesn’t mean it will make me sad because Emily’s not around any more’.’
Mark is full of praise for the heroism of a passer-by Tony Canty, who was walking in the park with his wife and baby on the fateful day.
After witnessing Skana attack Emily, he chased after her and overpowered her. The court heard how Mr Canty barged her over, then sat on top of her until police arrived. ‘He was amazing to chase after her,’ Mark said. ‘I will thank him in due course.’
Some things, however, remain too painful to contemplate. Queen’s Park is often on his route home but he takes a detour to avoid it. He struggles looking back at past pictures of his daughter and is kept awake at night by the appalling scenes he witnessed.
‘I have got to live with it for the rest of my life but I feel I can cope with it – even though it’s absolutely horrific. I feel I’ve got brilliant friends and family around me and Emily’s an inspiration.
‘I’ve got to be strong. I’m still strong for her. I’ve got to get justice for her and do everything I can so that it doesn’t happen again. I want something good to come out of it. That’s keeping me going.’
Doctors knew Emily Jones’s killer was a threat to children but her carer was not told: Leaked medical report reveals catalogue of blunders that left Albanian mental patient free to attack seven-year-old
By Mark Hookham, Senior Reporter For The Mail On Sunday
Medical staff knew that a mentally ill Albanian woman who cut a girl’s throat on Mother’s Day was a threat to children – but those monitoring her in the community were unaware of the danger, a damning report reveals.
A Mail on Sunday investigation today exposes a catalogue of failures that meant killer Eltiona Skana was free to roam the streets despite a shocking history of violence and her refusal to take anti-psychotic medication.
Skana, 30, a paranoid schizophrenic who entered the UK illegally, grabbed seven-year-old Emily Jones as she rode past her on a scooter in a park in Bolton and slashed her throat with a craft knife. She died shortly afterwards.
This newspaper has obtained an internal NHS report which details a string of blunders and missed opportunities by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for Skana’s care.
Eltiona Skana, 30, a paranoid schizophrenic who entered the UK illegally, grabbed seven-year-old Emily Jones (pictured) as she rode past her on a scooter in a park in Bolton and slashed her throat with a craft knife. She died shortly afterwards
The report, marked ‘strictly confidential’, reveals:
- Three years before Emily’s brutal death, Skana had threatened a 13-year-old girl while possibly armed with a knife – but this disturbing incident was not included in her risk assessment;
- Skana was twice detained in psychiatric hospitals before killing Emily, but repeatedly escaped;
- Her mental state was assessed just once in the three months before she killed Emily;
- Skana had a long history of violence, including wielding a knife and a brutal attack on her mother;
- Clinicians ‘reluctantly’ bowed to her demands and changed her medication to less effective drugs – despite concerns that her condition would deteriorate;
- Her sister warned staff ‘early on in her illness’ that Skana refused to take her anti-psychotic tablets. A month’s supply of unused medication was found at Skana’s flat after she killed Emily.
Skana’s prosecution for murder was dropped on Friday after prosecutors accepted there was no realistic prospect of a conviction.
She pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and will be sentenced on Tuesday.
Emily’s grieving father, Mark, said Skana was a ‘ticking time bomb’ who should be locked up for the rest of her life. ‘I think she is vile,’ he said. ‘How dare she take my child away from me.
‘The coward murdered my child. I personally think she is a threat to the public and I want her to spend all her days in prison.’
Despite cataloguing so many failings, the serious incident review commissioned by the trust after Emily’s killing clears its staff of any blame.
‘In our opinion, unfortunately the incident could not have been predicted or prevented. E S [Eltiona Skana] was managed appropriately given the clinical findings,’ the report, written by a doctor and two nurses, states.
Emily’s grieving father, Mark (pictured with Emily), said Skana was a ‘ticking time bomb’ who should be locked up for the rest of her life. ‘I think she is vile,’ he said. ‘How dare she take my child away from me
Mr Jones (his daughter Emily, pictured) demanded that the trust apologise for its failings and said health bosses who oversaw Skana’s care should be sacked
And in what appears to be a shockingly insensitive comment, the report stressed that two of Skana’s care staff ‘wanted it to be known that when well, they regarded E S as a kind and lovely person’.
Mr Jones demanded that the trust apologise for its failings and said health bosses who oversaw Skana’s care should be sacked. ‘I want some senior heads to roll. I don’t like the fact that they are hiding in their ivory towers. I hope they can’t sleep, like I can’t.’
Skana was first referred to mental health staff in Manchester just three months after arriving in the UK in 2014 and was assessed as having psychotic ideas, including fears her neighbours were planning to harm her by using electricity.
In July 2015 she was sectioned and admitted to a psychiatric unit after she wielded a knife against her neighbours. She was discharged but arrested in February 2017 after attacking her mother. ‘She began saying that when she killed her mother, then everything would be OK,’ prosecutor Michael Brady QC told Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester last week.
Police discovered Skana had disconnected the electricity to the property’s boiler, removed light bulbs and thrown away her TV, which she claimed was transmitting her neighbours’ voices.
The court heard how she was detained in hospital again but escaped and turned up at a friend’s house, asking to see her friend’s 13-year-old daughter for no apparent reason ‘while possibly armed with a knife’.
When asked by her friend about her short haircut, she replied that she ‘cut her hair off, rather than cutting off other people’s heads’.
At the time of Emily’s death, Skana was being cared for by the Bolton North Community Mental Health Team. Pictured: Emily
How was she allowed to stay here?
Child killer Eltiona Skana was allowed to stay in the UK after smuggling herself into Britain in the back of a lorry and lying about being a trafficking victim.
Skana entered the UK illegally in 2014 and applied for asylum. The Home Office initially rejected her claim but, after an appeal, reversed its decision and later granted her leave to remain until December 2024. It is not known why.
A court in Manchester heard how Skana, 30, admitted to doctors that her claim to be a trafficking victim had been a lie.
The court heard it was ‘far from clear’ if this was ever passed on to immigration authorities. Judge Mr Justice Wall ruled that the jury in her murder trial should not be told about Skana’s lie in her asylum application.
Skana grew up in the village of Gjegjan in Northern Albania.
In February 2012, she married and went to live in Kuwait but the following year she ran away and returned to Albania. In 2014, she flew to Frankfurt before then sneaking into Britain. The trip was arranged by one of her sisters.
The court heard how her mother, two sisters and brother all lived in the Bolton area. Skana had no job, no friends and spent her time having coffee with her mother. She told her psychiatric nurse that she wanted to become a hairdresser and was planning to study English and maths at college.
In September, her father told The Mail on Sunday his daughter had a ‘hot temper’ but he claimed to not know she had been arrested in relation to Emily Jones’s killing.
Skana was first referred to mental health services in November 2014 and later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After her arrest for killing Emily, police discovered that she had wound wire around her toes, which she told them she tightened to ‘help with her emotions’.
Emily’s father Mark last night said: ‘I am shocked that we were looking after this dangerous woman with a history of violence for five years from 2015 until 2020 and with the possibility of her getting legal citizenship. I just think it’s absolutely bizarre.’
The Home Office refused to say why it reversed a decision to refuse her asylum. ‘We do not routinely comment on individual cases,’ a spokesman said.
After her return to hospital, medical staff made a ‘child safeguarding referral’, which should have warned all those involved in her care that she posed a risk to children. But crucially, the trust’s serious incident review found that while this disturbing incident was documented in Skana’s notes, it was not ‘easily accessible’.
And while her violence and use of weapons was recorded in her risk assessment – the danger she posed to children was not. As a result, neither her consultant psychiatrist nor the nurse responsible for her day-to-day care were aware of ‘the specific risk to children’. The psychiatrist even told the review team that he did not rely on her risk assessment to manage her care.
The review insists that knowing the potential risk Skana posed to children would not have altered ‘her management in the community’ because she was judged to be stable before she killed Emily.
But Julian Hendy of the charity Hundred Families, which campaigns for families affected by mental health murders, said the failure to flag up the threat she posed was a ‘shocking admission’.
‘Potential threats to children are a complete red flag which need to be highlighted prominently,’ he said. ‘If there is a risk to children it has to be recognised by the professionals treating her.’
Skana was ‘most stable’ when taking anti-psychotic medication in the form of monthly injections. The report reveals that staff would ‘reluctantly’ prescribe oral medication, which she ‘preferred’.
She was allowed to switch from injectable drugs to twice-daily tablets in August 2019, even though Victoria Fagan, Skana’s nurse since November 2018, told the court she had ‘concerns’ she would relapse.
Ms Fagan’s fears were soon realised: the report reveals that Skana was judged to be paranoid on eight separate occasions between August and December 2019. After the switch in medication, Skana was assessed by mental health staff twice a week but in mid-December these visits abruptly stopped.
Astonishingly, despite her record of violence, there was no assessment of her mental condition, or whether she was taking her drugs, between December and March.
Ms Fagan was on sick leave for a month between January 20 and February 24 and the report suggests no one took on the responsibility of checking on Skana. Ms Fagan saw Skana for the final time on March 11 – just 11 days before she killed Emily.
During an hour-long assessment, Skana discussed her plans to attend college and Ms Fagan said ‘she seemed fine and settled in her mental state’. Skana assured the nurse that she was taking her medication, but she was lying. When police arrested her, they discovered just one tablet missing from a package of medication, and found a stockpile of tablets in her flat, suggesting she had not taken her medication for a month before the killing.
Such behaviour should have come as no surprise to mental health staff. ‘Her sister confirmed early on in her illness, and when interviewed after the incident, that E S did not take her medication as prescribed,’ the report states.
Police (pictured at the scene) were called to Queen’s Park in Bolton, Greater Manchester, on March 22 following reports that a child had been stabbed
At the time of Emily’s death, Skana was being cared for by the Bolton North Community Mental Health Team, which has just two consultant psychiatrists overseeing 855 patients. Staff use a traffic-light system, with ‘red’ denoting higher-risk cases and ‘green’ for ‘stable’ patients. The review says that ‘at the time of the incident, E S would have been recorded as green’.
Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust declined to answer a series of questions from the MoS.
Trust chief executive Neil Thwaite said: ‘We recognise the devastating impact Emily’s death has had on everyone who knew and loved her, and offer our heartfelt condolences to Emily’s parents and family. We treat incidents of this kind with the utmost seriousness and completed an internal rigorous review.’
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