Luay Nader Sako, accused of stabbing Celeste Manno to death in Melbourne to face judge-only hearing

Luay Nader Sako, accused of stabbing Celeste Manno to death in Melbourne to face judge-only hearing 2
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The fate of a man charged with the gruesome stabbing murder of a young graduate will hang on the decision of a judge alone. 

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Luay Nader Sako, 36, of Roxburgh Park, last year pleaded not guilty to the brutal stabbing murder of Celeste Manno in anticipation of securing an assessment from a forensic psychiatrist that supported an assertion he was not capable of committing the crime due to his poor mental health. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court of Victoria heard two forensic psychiatrists who assessed Sako were at loggerheads about whether he was fit to stand trial. 

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Celeste Manno, 23, was allegedly murdered in her Melbourne home in November 2020

Celeste Manno, 23, was allegedly murdered in her Melbourne home in November 2020

Luay Sako, 35, handed himself in to local police hours after Ms Manno's death and was taken to hospital under police guard, and was charged with murder

Luay Sako, 35, handed himself in to local police hours after Ms Manno’s death and was taken to hospital under police guard, and was charged with murder 

Celeste Manno had been in the prime of life when she was stabbed to death in her own bed

Celeste Manno had been in the prime of life when she was stabbed to death in her own bed 

The decision will now be decided by a judge in a contested investigation hearing that will span three days in October. 

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The court heard while Dr Andrew Carroll – on behalf of Sako – argued the alleged killer was too mentally unwell to properly direct his lawyers, Dr Clare McInerney – for the prosecution – believes that prognosis could be cured. 

Before Covid-19 ravaged the Victorian justice system, such decisions would have been decided by a jury rather than a judge. 

While juries are now actively deciding cases within the Supreme Court, the court heard mental fitness trials remained under the jurisdiction of a judge alone. 

‘Until the current provisions are revoked, that is the position. It’s not an optional position, it’s judge alone only,’ the judicial registrar said.  

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At a hearing in March, the court heard Sako had secured  a ‘second opinion’ on his mental capacity after his original assessment didn’t fall his way. 

In a 30-page report, Dr Carroll found Sako was not only unfit to stand trial over the alleged murder, but would remain that way for at least the next year. 

The court heard the psychiatrist, who examined the fitness of Bourke Street killer James ‘Dimitrious’ Gargasoulas, claimed Sako’s was a ‘complicated situation’. 

On Monday, the court heard Dr McInerney believed Sako had a ‘more favourable prognosis’ depending on his treatment 

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Crown prosecutor Patrick Bourke said Sako’s mental fitness needed to be subject to a thorough investigation before the court. 

‘It will be submitting that Mr Sako is in fact fit (to stand trial),’ he said.  

If the judge is convinced Sako is unfit to stand trial, the killer will be placed into a mental health facility until he is deemed well enough by forensic doctors to be released back into the community. 

Many killers dealt with this way are released back into the community in secret within years.  

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Ms Manno was Sako's team leader at a Serco call centre before he was fired from the role

Ms Manno was Sako’s team leader at a Serco call centre before he was fired from the role

Heartbroken mum Aggie Di Mauro pictured with her beloved daughter

Heartbroken mum Aggie Di Mauro pictured with her beloved daughter

Such an assessment would come as a cruel blow to the family of Ms Manno.  

Sako allegedly smashed through his former colleague’s window at her family home in Mernda, in Melbourne’s northeast, before repeatedly stabbing her with a knife as she lay in bed in November 2020. 

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He then allegedly fled over a fence that was left stained with blood.

Sako handed himself in to local police hours later and was taken to hospital under police guard and treated for a hand injury that required surgery.

MUM’S PAIN AT STABBING DEATH OF DAUGHTER AT HOME 

Celeste Manno’s mum Aggie Di Mauro wonders if there was more she could have done to save her from being killed.

Ms Di Mauro has contemplated whether she could have prevented her daughter’s death if Ms Manno had slept in her bed or if the family had purchased a guard dog.

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The mum has since fought to toughen stalking laws, saying ‘I thought we were safe at home’.

She wants to see violent perpetrators tracked with GPS monitoring and has met with Victorian State Attorney General Jill Hennessy as part of her campaign. 

Ms Hennessy said the government would do everything they could to end violence against women and support them to feel safe.

‘I cannot begin to understand the pain her family and friends are feeling,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

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In October last year, Sako’s barrister Sam Norton, of Stary Norton Halphen, told the Supreme Court of Victoria his client’s initial medical assessment was inconclusive. 

‘This is a very complex situation in terms of Mr Sako’s mental health,’ he said. 

‘That assessor has indicated that in his opinion a further opinion ought to be obtained.’

At Sako’s first court hearing in November – one of many he refused to attend in person – the court heard Sako had no mental health issues and was not on any medication at the time his 23-year old victim was allegedly killed.   

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Sako had been freed to live in the community at the time of the alleged murder after being charged with breaching a restraining order. 

Ms Manno was Sako’s team leader at a Serco call centre in South Morang and comforted him when he left the company a year earlier.

Sako’s family was devastated by his arrest and said they didn’t know much about what he had been doing at the time.

He had been unemployed and living at his parent’s house.

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There was an outpouring of grief over the shocking death of Ms Manno, who was supposed to be celebrating her birthday that week. 

Ms Manno’s boyfriend Chris Ridsdale was among many family and friends who mourned the beloved young woman in the days after her death.

Ms Manno is pictured with her partner, Chris Ridsdale, who had been looking forward to celebrating her birthday the week she was killed

Ms Manno is pictured with her partner, Chris Ridsdale, who had been looking forward to celebrating her birthday the week she was killed 

Pictured: The crime scene in Mernda where Ms Manno was found dead

Pictured: The crime scene in Mernda where Ms Manno was found dead

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‘She was supposed to be having Christmas with our family. Her family. Her mother. Her brothers,’ he said at the time.

Mr Ridsdale revealed her excitement to upload the first photo of them as a couple to her social media profiles.

‘We took this picture on Saturday this week,’ he wrote.

‘We talked and joked about how this would be the first picture of us together on her social media and she was so excited to share it with everyone.

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‘I was told, very clearly, that this was to be my new profile picture.’ 

Mr Ridsdale said he rarely uses his social media accounts, but uploaded it on as a special tribute Ms Manno.

‘Now it seems like the best thing I can do for her. To show everyone how much she meant to me and how beautiful she was,’ he said.   

Ms Manno’s father, Tony Manno, said the justice system had let his girl down.

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‘It let my daughter down,’ he said. ‘And it’s gotta be changed. It won’t bring her back but it has to be changed.’

Jayden Manno expressed similar concerns over Victoria’s revolving door justice system. 

‘It’s harrowing. Such a senseless act,’ Jayden said. 

‘It should never have happened to our family, not to anyone’s family. This can’t happen.’   

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Sako will return to court in October.  

There has been an outpouring of grief for Ms Manno

There has been an outpouring of grief for Ms Manno

Grieving family: Ms Manno's brothers Jayden (left), Alesandro, uncle Gabriel and father Tony Manno, with her beloved baby niece Daisy, addressed the media in November

Grieving family: Ms Manno’s brothers Jayden (left), Alesandro, uncle Gabriel and father Tony Manno, with her beloved baby niece Daisy, addressed the media in November 

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