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Father of murdered Melbourne woman Courtney Herron backs calls for change over Celeste Manno death

The father of Melbourne woman Courtney Herron has backed calls by the family of Celeste Manno for immediate change to Victoria’s justice system.  

John Herron told Daily Mail Australia on Friday that the Victorian Government needed to take immediate steps to end violence against women. 

His calls echo that of the Manno family, who lost the 23-year old on Monday in a savage killing. 

John Herron clings to photograph of his daughter Courtney, who was beaten to death by Henry Hammond last year

John Herron clings to photograph of his daughter Courtney, who was beaten to death by Henry Hammond last year

Celeste Manno, 23, was allegedly killed in her Melbourne home in the early hours of Monday

Celeste Manno, 23, was allegedly killed in her Melbourne home in the early hours of Monday

Courtney Herron was brutally killed by a man doctors say is not guilty of murder because he was mentally ill

Courtney Herron was brutally killed by a man doctors say is not guilty of murder because he was mentally ill

The death of Ms Manno has brought back haunting memories for Mr Herron of the day his daughter was murdered. 

In May last year, Courtney, was bashed to death in a Melbourne park in the most horrific of ways. 

In August, her killer Henry Hammond was found not guilty by a judge who accepted he was mentally impaired at the time.

‘Our family’s heart sinks at yet another young woman’s life brutally cut short,’ Mr Herron told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘It seems to be an endless cycle and yet there is very little that the authorities are doing to address the situation.’

Luay Sako, 35, of Roxburgh Park was charged with Ms Manno’s murder on Thursday night. 

The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court heard Sako  had no mental health issues and was not on any medication at the time he allegedly killed Ms Manno. 

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

He handed himself in to police shortly after.

Sako had been on bail at the time after breaching an intervention order taken out against him by his victim. 

Her father, Tony Manno, said the justice system had let his girl down.

‘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.’

Ms Manno’s brother Jayden 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.’

Jayden said everyone had the right to live their lives in the safety of their own home. 

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 on Thursday night

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 on Thursday night

Henry Hammond, 27, bashed Courtney Herron, 25, to death in a Melbourne park. He was found not guilty due to mental impairment

Henry Hammond, 27, bashed Courtney Herron, 25, to death in a Melbourne park. He was found not guilty due to mental impairment

John Herron and his daughter Courtney in happier times. She was savagely killed by Henry Hammond, who was found not guilty of murder through mental impairment

John Herron and his daughter Courtney in happier times. She was savagely killed by Henry Hammond, who was found not guilty of murder through mental impairment

THE STEPS THAT PUT COURTNEY’S KILLER BACK ON THE STREETS

December 17, 2018: Henry Hammond is sentenced to 10 months and 14 days over a savage attack on a woman

Hammond had bashed and strangled the woman and threatened to kill her

She only escaped by gouging his eyes 

Hammond had previous offences from NSW related to domestic violence

April 1, 2019: Hammond had been behind bars for 231 days when he won an appeal in the County Court of Victoria

Judge John Carmody re-sentenced Hammond to time already served and added a community corrections order

May 25, 2019: Courtney Herron meets Hammond in Melbourne and treats him to dinner.

Security footage from the Fitzroy restaurant shows the pair happily engaged in conversation.

The pair join a group of Ms Herron’s friends and smoke ice together. Friends video their conversation because they were ‘acting strangely’.

May 26, 2019: Hammond and Ms Herron go for an early morning walk in Royal Park, before he beats her to death with a branch and buries her in piles of leaves and branches.

Dog walkers find Courtney Herron’s mangled body at 9.25am

May 28, 2019: Henry Hammond is charged for Ms Herron’s murder following a series of tip offs sparking a manhunt in Melbourne’s CBD

Hammond tells police he recognised the 25-year-old from a past life. He says he killed her in an act of revenge for killing his wife

May 31, 2019: Thousands attended a silent vigil organised for Ms Herron

September 16, 2019: Hammond is due to be assessed by a forensic psychiatrist

December 18, 2019: Hammond pleads not guilty to murder at Melbourne Magistrates Court

January 7, 2020: Ms Herron’s father John speaks up about his daughter’s death: ‘She died unnecessarily. ‘She had the world at her feet.’

July 21, 2020: Hammond is transferred to a mental health facility after a court agreed he was unfit to stand trial

August 17, 2020: A judge finds Hammond is not guilty of murdering Ms Herron because he has schizophrenia 

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Mr Herron said the killing of Ms Manno had left him feeling powerless. 

‘I’m fighting the state all the way … it’s up and down as it’s always going to be,’ he said. 

‘You get periods where you just wish your daughter was back and it’s never going to happen.’

Mr Herron recalled fond memories of his own daughter as a small child, watching her wake in her bed in the mornings. 

‘She used to cuddle up in bed with me at five in the morning, getting her ready for school, and it just gets to you – the state’s complete indifference to it,’ he said. 

‘Certainly if you have a child, and you have a daughter, you should know what I’m speaking about and feeling.’

Courtney had not known Hammond when he cruelly took her life. 

‘Are you going to kill me?’ his daughter had asked before Hammond hit her over the head with a tree branch.

A witness later told police he believed Hammond continued to go ‘hell for leather’ for at least 50 minutes. 

Hours earlier, his victim had kindly offered him a cigarette and enjoyed a meal with a man who was a total stranger. 

Mr Herron hopes the Victorian State Coroner will hold its own inquiry into his daughter’s case. 

‘Under section 52 of the Coroner’s Act it would be mandated because there is an element of family violence with the previous victim so they would have to do it,’ Mr Herron said. 

Hammond had been released early from jail by the County Court for a violent attack on his then girlfriend.  

Similar inquests by the coroner were held for murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher and Bourke Street killer James Gargasoulas, whose horrific rampage left six dead in January 2017.

‘But now, a woman is killed like this, they don’t want one. The coroner has not been in contact with me. And there is a petition going around as well,’ Mr Herron said. 

There has been an outpouring of grief over the shocking alleged murder of Ms Manno, who was supposed to be celebrating her birthday this week.  

There has been an outpouring of grief for Ms Manno

There has been an outpouring of grief for Ms Manno

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

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

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.

‘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 Wednesday 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 younger brother Alessandro said: ‘It was only two days ago when we were both making homemade pizzas together and having a great time by the pool and talking about seeing our niece tomorrow.’

‘I can’t believe you’re gone and I’m never gonna see you again. You were so perfect in every way and I just can’t believe this is real.’ 

Sako is due back in court next year.  

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

Ms Manno is pictured with her partner, Chris Ridsdale, who had been looking forward to celebrating her birthday this week

Ms Manno is pictured with her partner, Chris Ridsdale, who had been looking forward to celebrating her birthday this week

 

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