JOAN HOGGETT INQUEST: Message from killer’s mum was not passed on by health trust worker, hearing told

The mother of teenage killer Ethan Mountain called a mental health team just days before he killed Sunderland grandmother Joan Hogett in a frenzied attack – but the message was not passed on, an inquest heard.

By Kevin Clark
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 6:19 pm

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Ethan Mountain was wearing a horror mask and had his hood up when he attacked the 62-year-old 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.

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.

Joan Hoggett

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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.

A resumed inquest at Sunderland coroner’s court today heard Mountain’s mum, Nicola Curtis, had called Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear mental health trust’s early intervention team on August 28 and left a voice message requesting an appointment.

But care co-ordinator Christopher Laydon had not mentioned the call in his hand-over to colleagues before heading off on annual leave.

Asked by barrister Zara Waker, on behalf of Mrs Hoggett’s family, “Is it correct you did not include in your e-mail that Mum had called, requesting an appointment with concern about his behaviour?”, he replied: “That was not in the e-mail, no.”

Ethan Mountain

Asked if anyone would have arranged a meeting if the call had been mentioned, he said: “Depending on the capacity of the person who got it, it would have been planned but I can’t say how soon that would have been.”

Ms Walker said the e-mail referred to the continuation of ‘family-focused intervention’ while Mr Laydon was on holiday – but efforts to contact Mountain and his mother had been unsuccessful and he had not actually been seen by any member of the team since April 10.

Asked “If these interventions were not happening, then isn’t it fair to say that Ethan simply did not have any contact with any part of the service during this time?”, Mr Laydon replied: “He did not, no.”

The hearing was told Mountain’s dosage of anti-psychotic medication had been halved in February and it was agreed there would be a temporary period of increased monitoring to assess the impact – but this not not happened.

Flowers outside the One Stop Store after Joan Hoggett was killed

Mr Laydon said Ethan had sufficient insight to assess whether anything was going wrong himself and his mother was aware of how to access emergency help if his condition deteriorated.

There had been no change in Ethan’s ‘presentation' when Mr Laydon met with him on April 10.

Questioned about the contents of the voicemail by Emma Sutton, representing the trust, Mr Laydon said Ms Curtis had simply requested an appointment and made no mention of any concerns about her son’s behaviour.

Asked, "There was nothing in that voicemail that led you to have any concerns that there was a change of risk and you had to get round there and sort it out?”, he replied “No, there was not.”

Ms Sutton asked: “Were you confident that Mother knew who to contact if there was a crisis?”, to which he replied: “I absolutely was – that was a massive reassurance factor.

"I was confident that she would be the appropriate person to know what to do if she was concerned.”

Family therapist John Simons told the hearing he had met with Ethan Mountain and his mother on two occasions but efforts to arrange further appointments after one in March had been unsuccessful.

But that was not unusual and had not been a cause of particular concern: "I did make considerable efforts to contact them but it is not uncommon for young people to be ambivalent towards family therapy,” said Mr Simons.

"He was wanting to get on with his life. There were no concerns that were raised that I am aware of.”

Asked by Miss Sutton: “By June 28, there had been a lack of engagement – were there concerns about that or did you just think, ‘This is an 18-year-old lad who does not want to see me’?,” he said: “It was precisely that.”

It was not possible to force people to take part in and therapy if they did not wish to do so: “It is a voluntary service,” said Mr Simons.

"If there is no legal framework there, you cannot enforce treatment when it is a voluntary service.”

Asked if Mountain’s lack of engagement would have been a red flag, he replied: “For him to disengage would not surprise me at all. I have seen it many, many times. For Ethan to disengage would not necessarily be that concerning.”

Asked by Miss Sutton if there had been anything else he could have done, Mr Simons replied: “I think I worked very hard to engage both Ethan and his family. I feel very sad that what has happened has happened.

“But I don’t think it would have made any difference – my sense was that they were not customers for what I was offering at that time.”

He accepted that he could have kept Mr Laydon more up-to-date on the difficulties he was having tying the family down to an appointment: “Unfortunately there were was a period of cancelled appointments. On reflection, perhaps I could have been more disciplined in following up with Chris.

"It is tricky when you are working with families, because it is so fluid.”

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