Celeste Manno’s mother condemns murderer Luay Sako’s ‘outrageous’ sentence and vows to fight to keep him behind bars

<span>Celeste Manno’s mother Aggie Di Mauro outside the supreme court in Melbourne after Luay Sako was sentenced to a maximum of 36 years in prison for murdering Manno in 2020.</span><span>Photograph: Con Chronis/AAP</span>
Celeste Manno’s mother Aggie Di Mauro outside the supreme court in Melbourne after Luay Sako was sentenced to a maximum of 36 years in prison for murdering Manno in 2020.Photograph: Con Chronis/AAP

The mother of Melbourne woman Celeste Manno, who was stalked and viciously stabbed to death while sleeping in her bed, has vowed to fight to keep her daughter’s murderer behind bars after he avoided a life sentence.

Luay Sako, 39, was sentenced in the Victorian supreme court on Thursday to a minimum of 30 years in prison. He pleaded guilty last year to murdering his former colleague in 2020. The killing had followed a campaign of stalking and harassment of Manno, 23, that had been carried out over about 18 months.

Speaking outside court, Manno’s mother, Aggie Di Mauro, said she hoped the Director of Public Prosecutions and the court of appeal “recognised true justice in this case demands a life sentence”.

“It’s outrageous, absolutely unbelievable, that the court decided to grant him mercy even though he showed Celeste none,” she said.

“Quite clearly, his right to mercy was more important than her right to life.”

A visibly angry Di Mauro said her daughter was an “innocent young woman” who had “done nothing to him [Sako]”.

She said anything less than a life sentence was a “grave injustice” to Manno and “absolutely fails the community’s expectations in this case”.

Justice Jane Dixon said Sako carried out the murder of Manno with “chilling efficiency” and had committed an “appalling crime”. She said he expressed no remorse about the murder.

“Crimes such as this are profoundly disturbing for all to hear about in the community and must be denounced,” she said.

She told the court Sako’s offence did not warrant life imprisonment but a “very stern sentence”, triggering murmurs through the court room.

“I have kept in mind the devastating impact of your offence on Celeste’s family and friends … but your psychiatric condition at the time of the offending reduces your moral culpability,” she said.

Dixon said Sako’s extreme personality disorder and major depressive disorder “caused a significant impairment” of his mental functioning at the time of the offence. But she said he was capable of knowing the difference between “right and wrong”.

She said his prospects for rehabilitation were limited, but could be improved with adequate psychiatric treatment over the lengthy sentence.

Dixon sentenced Sako to 36 years in jail and said he must serve at least 30 years before he could apply for parole.

She described Manno as an “an exceptional young woman who until her untimely death had the world at her feet”.

“Celeste’s family and friends are unable to fathom losing her in this horrific and senseless way,” she said.

During a plea hearing last month, Di Mauro shouted at her daughter’s killer, calling him a gutless coward.

Related: ‘I was too late’: Celeste Manno’s mother emotional in court as she confronts stalker who stabbed 23-year-old to death

The court had heard Di Mauro had been sleeping in another room when Sako broke into their Melbourne home in the early hours of 16 November 2020.

She woke to the sound of Sako leaving the property, and ran to the bedroom to find her daughter’s lifeless body.

She previously told the court she “desperately” tried to bring her daughter back.

Sako had worked with Manno at a Serco call centre in Melbourne’s north-east for only a few months before he was fired for performance issues.

Dixon said Sako became “infatuated” with Manno despite the feelings not being reciprocated.

Sako created multiple Instagram accounts to circumvent Manno’s attempt to block him from contacting her, the court heard. The messages, in which he professed his love, became increasingly vulgar and degrading over a 12-month period, the court heard.

Manno went to police and obtained an interim intervention order against Sako, but it did not stop him from contacting her. His contact with Manno ceased when he was charged with breaching the order.

On the night before her death, Manno posted a photo of her boyfriend on Instagram. Dixon said that photo was the final trigger for Sako.

On 16 November, Sako drove to her Mernda home, scaled a fence and smashed her bedroom window with a hammer.

Breaking into the room where Manno slept, he stabbed her multiple times with a kitchen knife, the court heard.