Joan Hoggett death: Ethan Mountain cleared of murder

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Ethan MountainImage source, Northumbria Police
Image caption,
Ethan Mountain confessed to a friend he had killed Mrs Hoggett, the court heard

A young man who fatally stabbed a shop worker in an unprovoked attack has been cleared of murder.

Ethan Mountain, 19, attacked 62-year-old Joan Hoggett at the One Stop shop in Fulwell, Sunderland, on 5 September.

During a trial at Newcastle Crown Court, a judge ordered the jury to find him not guilty.

Mountain had previously admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and will be sentenced at a later date.

Mrs Hoggett, a great-grandmother, died in hospital after suffering 29 injuries including 19 deep stab wounds.

After the minute-long attack, Mountain left behind a holdall containing a hammer, a sheathed samurai sword, machetes and three knives.

'Voices in head'

Prosecutors had accepted he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but argued he demonstrated rational behaviour in the hours before the killing.

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
Joan Hoggett was approaching the end of her shift when she was attacked at about 22:30 GMT

CCTV footage played to the jury showed a masked Mr Mountain, of Heaton Gardens, South Shields, enter the shop and produce a knife.

He then stabbed Mrs Hoggett.

Mountain later told a friend he killed her because "the voices in his head told him to do it", jurors were told.

He had fled the scene on foot and a discarded blood-stained jacket was found in a garden.

Image caption,
Michelle Young urged more openness about mental health issues

After the hearing, Mrs Hoggett's daughter Michelle Young said the family had been devastated at the manner of her death.

She said: "Our whole family has struggled and is devastated at the way mam was killed.

"I personally feel strongly that anyone suffering from mental health or are worried, should not delay in getting help and not avoid talking about it.

"It could save someone else's life."

Image source, One Stop
Image caption,
CCTV footage taken from the shop was played to jurors

Supt Paul Milner, of Northumbria Police, said he had been "shocked by the absolute randomness" of the attack.

The court heard that Mountain had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of 12.

He spent three months in a psychiatric hospital in 2017 after suffering a series of psychotic episodes.

During his hospital stay he told staff he heard voices in his head and thought of harming people with an axe or hammer.

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