The woman who killed 7-year-old Emily Jones in a Bolton park on Mother’s Day has been given a life sentence and ‘detained in hospital until it is no longer necessary’ where she will return to prison if her treatment plan allows for it.
Eltiona Skana, 30, had admitted the manslaughter charge last month due to diminished responsibility but denied murder, which the prosecution dropped during the week-long trial, as there was no “realistic prospect of a conviction”.
The killing on March 22 sent shockwaves nationwide.
In the weeks and months ahead, conspiracies from a range of ideologically-motivated sources flourished on social media, as far-right groups in the United States and Britain, also sought to blame Muslim and Somali communities and as individuals, even after Reuters, Snopes, and USA Today published rebuttals.
Tell MAMA received various reports about social media accounts spreading anti-Muslim and Islamophobic conspiracies and conspiracies about the killing between early April and early June. Examples include a tweet containing the ableist and stigmatising slur ‘nutty’ and suggested that the perpetrator should be buried ‘pig fat’ after facing the death penalty and a tweet suggesting that Islam was a motivating factor.
The reality, however, owes to strict reporting restrictions that become active under contempt of court laws which uphold the integrity of the legal process to prevent outside influence. And saving for ‘exceptional circumstances’ suspects are named only after formal charges enter the public domain.
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police told USA Today at the time that “disclosing the nationality of the women” risked “identifying them” during the point of arrest.
Bolton News editor Karl Holbrook condemned the conspiracy theorists who accused them of ‘suppressing the truth’ in a series of tweets in May.
Michael Brady QC, for the prosecution, asked jurors to consider Ms Skana’s “undoubted mental health history, in particular paranoid schizophrenia, substantially impaired her ability to understand the nature of her conduct.”
For the defence, Dr John Crosby, who examined Ms Skana, but did not give evidence, concluded that her schizophrenia did explain her actions. As Dr Syed Afghan, who is treating Ms Skana at the high-security Rampton Hospital, offered no alternative theories, agreeing with the defence assertion that Ms Skana had a history of relapsing into “psychotic violence” when off medication.
Ms Skana had no direct physical contact with her mental health workers for several months. The judge had also raised concerns that Ms Skana had lied to her mental health worker about taking her medication.
The mental health charity Mind, in its detailed information on schizophrenia, challenges various misconceptions, stating: “There is no evidence that schizophrenia itself causes violence. People with this diagnosis are much more likely to harm themselves than to harm someone else.” In contrast, Mind presents other factors, including alcohol or substance abuse, as factors in violent crimes.
For Emily’s parents, the grief is insurmountable. In a victim impact statement, read out in the court, from her father mentioned how their future was ‘taken away’ from them.
A crowdfunding legacy page created by her parents has so far raised over £25k for the Bolton Lads & Girls Club.
He also described in painful detail the moment he knew that he would lose his daughter.
For this investigation, we also identified broad anti-Muslim language related to the killing in late March on social media. On April 1, however, a viral tweet from the Twitter user @grahamdavie26 – an account with no avatar or other identifiable information – blamed a ‘Somali migrant’ and would influence a variety of other websites, including white nationalists in the United States.
Archives confirm that the incendiary tweet had gained over seven-hundred retweets, as reply tweets from the @grahamdavie26 account used racist, far-right talking points about ‘cultural enrichment’ and dehumanising Somalis, more broadly, as ‘scum’.
The US-based gossip website called Scallywag & Vagabond cited the @grahamdavie26 as a source on April 2, and within a day, the white supremacist National Vanguard (April 3) and the white nationalist VDARE (April 3) websites, both cited Scallywag & Vagabond as their source.
A day later, the now-defunct far-right Voice of Europe website, cited a tweet from the former UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson who aligned with a bloc of far-right politicians in the European Parliament in 2015, had quote-tweeted an account who misidentified the victim as Emily Jones Bolton.
Robert Spencer, who remains banned from entering the UK had cited that Voice of Europe article as a source in an article headlined “UK: Muslim migrant stabs 7-year-old girl to death” published on April 4.
Around this time, a now-deleted tweet from the self-styled ‘Imam of Peace’ Mohammad Tawhidi, who is based in Australia, propagated similar falsehoods, attributing the killing to a ‘Somali immigrant’. Archives confirm that the tweet had at least twenty-thousand retweets before its removal.
On April 12, politicalite.com, which NewsGuard rated red (37/100), for frequently publishing “dubious and often damaging claims based on anonymous sources,” had used the dehumanising headline, “THE REAL VIRUS: ‘Somali Migrant’ KILLED Girl, 7 in Bolton Park” before deleting the word Somali from the headline and article text.
By May 1, Katie Hopkins, writing for FrontPage Magazine, a website flagged red by NewsGuard for publishing conspiracies about Muslims and other minorities, and is described by Media Bias/Fact Check as having an extreme right bias, claimed that the perpetrator was “a Somali woman, a stranger to you and to this land.” Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) shared the article on VK and Telegram on May 3.
The Hopkins column faced a significant edit on May 20 (when news of charges against Eltiona Skana made headlines), as editors deleted reference to the perpetrator being Somali.
The parents of Emily Jones, in a statement issued through Greater Manchester Police, in mid-June stating: “Emily loved everything and everyone, regardless of their race, gender or beliefs” and requested that people stop appropriating their image in protests and campaigns.
Britain First, the street defence movement, had used a picture of Emily Jones in a large ‘White Lives Matter’ propaganda campaign, which ran counter to the Black Lives Matters protests occurring nationwide.