JOAN HOGGETT INQUEST: Killer Ethan Mountain's mother says her heart breaks for grandmother's family

The mother of teenage killer Ethan Mountain has sent her sympathy to the family of victim Joan Hoggett.

By Kevin Clark
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 2:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th May 2022, 5:46 pm

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In a statement read out at an inquest into the 62-year-old’s death today, Nicola Curtis said her heart was breaking for both her family and Mrs Hoggett’s.

Mountain was wearing a horror mask and had his hood up when he attacked Mrs Hoggett while she was at work in the One Stop Shop, in Sea Road, Fulwell, on September 5, 2018.

Police and paramedics fought to save her but she was pronounced dead at Sunderland Royal Hospital shortly before midnight.

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Nineteen-year-old Mountain accepted responsibility for her death and was made subject to an an indefinite detention order at Newcastle Crown Court in March 2019.

Mountain, of Heaton Gardens, South Shields, had originally been accused of Mrs Hoggett’s murder but a judge directed the jury to find him not guilty after both prosecution and defence teams accepted he was suffering an abnormality of mind at the time of the killing, which impaired his responsibility.

The hearing has previously heard that Mountain had been referred to mental health services and had entered hospital, initially voluntarily, in June 2017.

His condition had deteriorated and he had been sectioned in July, but was released into the community in August with support from Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear mental health trust’s early intervention team.

Joan Hoggett

In February 2018, he had requested a reduction in the dose of his anti-psychotic medication. Psychiatrist Dr Tibor Kovacs earlier told the hearing he had advised against reducing the dosage, but as Mountain was an adult and held to be legally competent to make the decision, the team had no power to oppose the move.

On the third day of the inquest at Sunderland coroner’s court, Nicola Curtis had provided an undated statement outlining her son’s medical history and the effect of the killing on herself and her family.

Read by coroner’s officer Neville Dixon, it said: “It has ripped my family apart forever and I will never be the same person again.

"The effect of all this has affected me on a massive scale and my other son as well as my Ethan. He will never be the son I gave birth to. He has changed for life.”

Ethan Mountain

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She offered her condolences to Mrs Hoggett’s family: “I would like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest sympathy to Joan’s family and friends,” she said.

"My heart breaks for Joan’s family and also for my family. This has ripped my family apart forever.”

Ms Curtis’ statement outlined her son’s medical history, including being hit by a car when he was just five.

She said the youngster had been so full of energy that she had introduced him to sport in an effort to burn off some of the excess and had sought medical help: “I was fobbed off but I knew something was wrong,” she said.

He was diagnosed with ADHD while still in primary school.

The inquest has heard Ethan Mountain had initially engaged well with support but had begun to ‘disengage’ after his medication was reduced in February 2018.

By the time of his attack on Mrs Hogget there had been no contact with the early intervention team since April 10.

Today’s hearing was told the trust had carried out an internal review after Mrs Hogget’s death which had raised a number of concerns, including issues around supervision of staff and follow-up on patients were were disengaging from support.

Senior coroner Derek Winter said he was keen to ensure that everything possible was done to prevent a recurrence of Mrs Hoggett’s death: “My anxiety around the handling of Ethan Mountain’s health care and treatment is that sufficient lessons have been learned so that, faced with the same or similar type of situation, staff on the ground – the front-line workers and management team – are sufficiently resourced and guided by policy.”

Group nursing director Anthony Deerey said: “This tragic event has had a significant impact on the service team and what we do as an organisation.

"There has been a significant amount of work that has been done.”

Team operations manager Claire Pickard told the hearing she had discussed Ethan Mountain’s case with care co-ordinator Christopher Laydon – but had not compared what he was telling her to the clinical records, so she was unaware Mountain had disengaged from services.

"I think, for myself, one of the most significant learning curves, and it is certainly something I take forward, is what I did not do, which is to triangulate that with the clinical records, familiarising myself to ensure the planned interventions were being carried through in full entirety,” she said.

Anthony Deery said triangulation of evidence between care co-ordinator and supervisor was now standard practice: “They would look at the clinical case records with the care co-ordinator, they would look at what was actually happening in that particular case,” he said.

More focus was being placed on establishing why clients would disengage from services, rather than simply continuing to offer them more appointments: “A significant part of it really is trying to establish what is happening. That has been a significant learning point for us from this incident,” he said.

"The question must be asked ‘If somebody is disengaging, has anyone pursued that, has anybody found out why that might be happening? Are there other services we can be liaising with?’.”

As well as the trust’s own review, the case had been investigated by medical safety experts Niche on behalf of NHS England, and Mr Deerey told the hearing the expectation was that it would not make any further recommendations on top of the actions already taken.

The inquest is due to conclude tomorrow (Friday, May 6).