THE GRIEVING father of Emily Jones, who was brutally killed in a Bolton park, says another child will die unless changes are made to the mental health system.

Emily would have celebrated her eighth birthday today and her parents Sarah Barnes and Mark Jones, plan to spend it quietly, laying flowers on her grave and remembering their little girl who had “a heart as big as her smile”.

The Markland Hill Primary School pupil had been with her dad, playing on her scooter in Queens Park, Bolton, on Mothers’ Day last year when stranger, Eltiona Skana, grabbed her and slit her throat.

The Bolton News: Emily JonesEmily Jones

The schoolgirl was airlifted to hospital but, despite the best efforts of medics, she died.

Skana, who had previously been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, went on trial for murder in November but the case collapsed after psychiatrists could offer no explanation for her killing Emily other than her mental condition.

Instead Skana was convicted on manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility with the judge, Mr Justice Wall telling the 30-year-old that if she is ever well enough to leave Rampton high security hospital she will be transferred to prison and may never be freed.

During the trial it emerged that Skana had a history of violence and had spent time as a psychiatric inpatient.

The Bolton News: Eltiona SkanaEltiona Skana

The Albanian asylum seeker had been given injections of anti-psychotic medication but had persuaded doctors to let her take the drugs needed to prevent her delusional thoughts orally instead.

Despite relapses when she did not take the tablets, Skana was being prescribed oral medication when she attacked Emily. She had lied to her community mental health worker about taking the drugs and after her arrest a month’s worth of unused tablets were found at her home.

Now Emily’s dad says he wants an apology from the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust, who were responsible for supervising Skana and changes made in general to the way people with paranoid schizophrenia are managed in the community.

After the killing the Trust carried out an internal review which concluded that the attack could not have been foreseen.

The Bolton News: Emily JonesEmily Jones

“It was pretty disgraceful to be honest because they outlined all these failings, and there were a lot, and at the end of it their finishing line was, ‘we still think the attack on your daughter was unpreventable’, which is ridiculous,” said Mark.

“Just leaving Skana without medication and knowing she was a threat to the public – there were a lot of failings.

“I have spoken to the CEO on a number of occasions and I have told him, ‘I am going to do my utmost. You need to admit liability here and apologise to my family’.

“I am a big believer that, on that day, if it wasn’t Emily, it would have been somebody else [who was killed] and who is to say this isn’t going to happen again?”

The Bolton News: Emily JonesEmily Jones

NHS England are now due to carry out an investigation and their own review into the case and Mark says he may even consider suing.

“I blame her [Skana] 75 per cent but I also blame the authorities 25 per cent,” he said.

“I have still got plenty to do. I need apologies from people.

“I am taking legal advice at the moment but I am going to wait until the next review before I do anything.”

READ MORE: Heartbreak as family marks 8th birthday

Mark, aged 49, has joined forces with the charity, Hundred Families, which campaigns and supports relatives of victims who have been killed by someone with a mental illness, in a bid to get changes made to the way patients are managed in the community.

At Skana’s trial psychiatrists told how people with paranoid schizophrenia can stop taking their medication because they wrongly believe they are now well and do not need it.

Mark has also been in contact with the family of Harley Watson, a 12-year-old Essex schoolboy who was killed when a car, driven by Terence Glover, ploughed into him in December 2019.

Like Skana, Glover has paranoid schizophrenia and had stopped taking his medication.

“It just shows it is happening all the time,” said Mark.

“This is exactly what happened with Emily."

He believes people with some mental health conditions should not be allowed the option of how or whether they take medication.

“They don’t know what they are doing," he said.

“How can you trust someone? If something doesn’t change then somebody else will lose their daughter or their son. Another child is going to die.”

He believes that if someone who needs medication for a mental condition which could lead to violence and is not taking it, then they should be taken into hospital, describing such people as "ticking time bombs".

Mark says he is determined to keep campaigning about the issue.

“I have got to. It keeps me going,” he said.

“Someone said to me, ‘what are you trying to achieve from all this? It is not going to bring Emily back’.

“It’s not, but I don’t want another family to have to go through what we have been through.

“I want an apology from the NHS and my overall goal would be that they are going to make changes.

“I don’t want Emily’s death to have been in vain. It is an outrage that this has happened.

“It is not something that should happen in a local park in Bolton on a Sunday.

“If we can stop it happening to one other person’s family then that would be amazing.

“It gives me some comfort.”

READ MORE: Emily's legacy of hope

Neil Thwaite, chief executive of Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “On behalf of our Trust, we continue to send our deepest sympathies to everyone who loved and cared for Emily.

 “We welcome the decision to commission an independent investigation into this tragic incident.”

Mental health charity MIND declined to comment.