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Woman carried dead mum’s head into street

Beheading St Clair
Jessica Camilleri used several knives to decapitate her mother. Picture: Facebook

WARNING: Graphic

A woman who killed her mother before carrying her decapitated head onto the streets outside her Sydney home will be released from prison years sooner after successfully appealing her sentence.

Jessica Camilleri was found not guilty in 2021 of murder and was instead sentenced to a lesser charge of manslaughter owing to “substantial mental health issues”, including ADHD and obsessive compulsive disorder.

An autopsy on 57-year-old Rita Camilleri revealed “at least 100 stab wounds”, including wounds that passed through the right eye socket and into the brain, after the 25-year-old attacked her mother with seven different knives.

Camilleri told police at the time of her arrest that she had acted in self-defence and her mother had tried to kill her. However, she admitted later to a forensic psychologist that she was “hacking like a butcher” and twisted her mother’s head off.

She was sentenced to 21 years behind bars by a Sydney court in March 2021, with a non-parole period of 16 years.

Jessica Camilleri was found not guilty in 2021 of murder and was instead sentenced to a lesser charge of manslaughter owing to ‘substantial mental health issues’. Picture: Supplied
Jessica Camilleri was found not guilty in 2021 of murder and was instead sentenced to a lesser charge of manslaughter owing to ‘substantial mental health issues’. Picture: Supplied

In Sydney Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Peter Hamill dismissed claims that Camilleri’s sentence was “manifestly excessive” and the sentencing judge had been incorrect in their assessment of the “gravity” of the crime.

Justice Hamill nonetheless ruled that Camilleri should be resentenced, with support from justices Christine Adamson and Richard Cavanagh.

“Objectively, the facts were gruesome and brutal and involved a frenzied attack on an innocent victim in her own home,” Justice Hammil said.

“On the other hand, the offence was spontaneous and the result of Camilleri losing control of herself because of her complex psychiatric illness.

“Her behaviour of walking into the street with her mother’s head and dropping it, as well as asking emergency services personnel whether they could reattach it, demonstrated the extent to which the applicant’s conduct was divorced from the real world.”

Based on the evidence of multiple psychiatrists and a psychologist, Justice Hammil found Camilleri had only a “simple understanding” of moral wrongfulness due to her intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder.

He ordered that she be resentenced to a prison term of 16 years, with a non-parole period of 12 years.

The court was told the frenzied attack began after Camilleri had become displeased with a young relative being at the home where she lived there with her mother, for whom she was the sole carer, on July 20, 2021.

Darlinghurst Supreme Court
Kristy Torrisi, the sister of Jessica Camilleri, who was sentenced for the decapitation death of her mother, with family and supporters. Picture: Dylan Coker

“A neighbour saw Camilleri ‘yelling and throwing her arms about, and ‘swearing and screaming at her mother’ for ‘always embarrassing’ her,” agreed police facts reveal.

The pair continued to clash after a home doctor told Camilleri that she was suffering stomach problems, with Rita insisting on her daughter being taken to hospital. Camilleri ripped the phone from her mother when she attempted to call an ambulance.

“Camilleri followed her mother and a struggle ensued in the bedroom,” agreed police facts state.

“Camilleri knocked her mother to the ground, dragged her by her hair into the kitchen and restrained her.

“She then used a number of kitchen knives to inflict ‘an indeterminate but very high number of knife blows at her mother’s head and neck, ultimately decapitating Mrs Camilleri at the C2 vertebra’.”

A relative attempted to stop the attack.

He jumped on Camilleri and struck out at her with the cardboard lid of a toy box.

“When the applicant went to push the (relative) off her, she caused a deep wound in his cheek and lacerated his head and hands,” agreed facts state.

“The (relative) vomited at some point during the incident.”

The sentencing judge ruled in 2021 that “the attack upon Rita Camilleri was entirely unprovoked”.

“(The attack) represented nothing more than an expression of the offender’s rage at her mother for her attempt to call an ambulance,” they said.

Camilleri will be eligible for parole from July 20, 2031.