A JUDGE has told the father of Emily Jones that he has his "deepest sympathy" for an "unimaginable loss".

Emily's father, Mark Jones was present at Manchester Crown Court for a preliminary hearing for Eltiona Skana, who is accused of murdering seven-year-old Emily as she playing on her scooter in Queens Park, Heaton, on Mother's Day.

Skana, aged 30, of Ernest Street, Bolton, appeared in court via a video link from  Rampton Hall secure hospital in Nottinghamshire, where she is being held and Mr Jones, sat in the public gallery, watched the screen carefully.

READ MORE: Woman accused of Emily's murder makes first court appearance

Judge Richard Mansell QC set a timetable for future hearings, including a provisional trial date of November 23 for Skana, whose nationality is listed as Albanian.

Skana, who was remanded in custody and is expected to remain at Rampton until the trial, detained under the mental health act, is due to apppear in court again via another video link on September 15.

In the meantime psychiatrists are due to examine Skana and prepare reports.

If Skana is deemed unfit to enter a plea then it is expected that a trial of facts will take place instead.

Turning to Mr Jones at the end of the preliminary hearing, Judge Mansell told him: "I can't imagine the level of pain you and your wife are going through at the moment and you have my personal and deepest sympathy as well as the sympathy of everyone involved in the court process."

He added that, despite the current disruption to the court system due to the coronavirus crisis he is "reasonably confident" the trial will go ahead in November.

"This case has a high priority," he added.

"You have my deepest sympathy for what is an unimaginable loss."