A TEENAGER who killed a shop worker during her shift in Sunderland has been convicted.

Ethan Mountain stabbed 62-year-old Joan Hoggett multiple times in an unprovoked and sustained attack as she stacked shelves at the One Stop shop on Sea Road, on the evening of September 5, 2018.

Mountain, of Heaton Gardens, South Shields, admitted manslaughter with diminished responsibility. He denied murdering the grandmother – claiming he “was not in the right frame of mind” at the time of the offence.

The Northern Echo:

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court today ordered the jury to find Mountain, 19, not guilty of one count of murder on the grounds that his mental responsibility for the killing was diminished.

The court was told Mountain had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 2017 and treated with anti-psychotic medication.

Superintendent Paul Milner, of Northumbria Police, paid tribute to the victim’s family following the trial.

The Northern Echo:

He said: “This was a horrific incident and what further shocked me and the community was the absolute randomness of the attack.

“Generally, with these types of crimes – which are very rare in the North East – the perpetrators are known to the victims.

"However, there was no link whatsoever between Ethan Mountain and Joan Hoggett, who went to work fully expecting to return home to her loved ones that night.

“I would like to thank Joan’s family for the incredible bravery they have shown over the last six months, as well as the team of detectives for their dedication and hard work on this case.

“Following Joan’s death, the community of Sunderland came together to pay their respects and show unity in response of this devastating incident. I would like to thank everybody, especially those who live in Fulwell, for their cooperation and assistance throughout this investigation.”

The court was told how Mountain, carrying a rucksack containing knives, left his home and walked to East Boldon Metro station shortly before boarding a train to Seaburn at around 10pm on the night in question.

He was seen walking down Sea Road before stopping outside the shop for a minute. He then pulled on a mask and entered before attacking Joan, who suffered fatal injuries.

Leaving his bag at the scene, Mountain was caught on CCTV running away from the store.

He went on to discard the knife, a jacket he was wearing and his mobile phone as he fled.

The Northern Echo:

Shortly after, the teenager turned up at the house of a friend who subsequently contacted police and took Mountain to Whitburn Park, where he was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Over the next few days, police carried out a large-scale investigation which saw officers close off Roker Park, where a knife sheath was found which contained traces of Mountain’s DNA.

A team of divers also searched a pond inside the park for Mountain’s mobile phone, which was never found. The jacket he had worn during the attack was also found discarded in the garden of a property in Calderbourne Avenue.

When he was charged with murder, 36 hours after his arrest, Mountain responded: “It was not me, I was not in the right frame of mind.”

Mountain refused to cooperate with police in interview but later admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility during a hearing at Newcastle Crown Court in January this year.

Today, the charge of murder against Mountain was dismissed by a judge based on the grounds that the defendant’s mental responsibility for the killing was diminished.

He is due to be sentenced on Friday, March 22.

A CPS spokesperson said: “In January of this year Ethan Mountain’s defence offered a plea to a charge of Manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility, which was supported by the professional view of the defence-instructed psychiatrist.

"However, this was contradicted by the view of the psychiatrist instructed by the prosecution and, on that basis, we took the decision to proceed to trial for murder.

“During the course of this trial our expert’s professional opinion began to align more closely with that of the defence and they have now conceded that Ethan Mountain was likely to have been of diminished responsibility during his attack on Joan Hoggett.

"As a result of this, the appropriate decision for the Crown was to offer no evidence on the charge of murder and to accept his guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

“Such decisions are not taken lightly and we wholly appreciate the significant loss endured by the family of Joan Hoggett. Our thoughts remain with them at what must be a very difficult time.”