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By LANE SAINTY, NCA NEWSWIRE
A Sydney woman who decapitated her mother and carried her head outside to show neighbours in a crime of “extraordinary viciousness and brutality” has been sentenced to 21 years and seven months in prison.
Jessica Camilleri, 27, killed her mother Rita in the kitchen of their St Clair home in July 2019, stabbing her at least 100 times in the head and neck and mutilating her body.
The attack lasted “many, many minutes” and involved seven knives, four of which broke during the onslaught.
The horror-movie obsessed woman then carried her mother’s head outside and dialled triple-0, asking for police and an ambulance to help with a “life or death” situation.
Police arrived at the scene to find the head on the footpath and Camilleri walking around covered in blood.
Family members reacted with relief and tears, one calling out “thank you” as Supreme Court Justice Helen Wilson sentenced Camilleri to more than two decades behind bars on Friday morning.
Family members reacted with relief and tears, one of them calling out ‘thank you’, as Jessica Camilleri was sentenced to 21 years and seven months prison. Rita Camilleri’s older daughter, Kristy Torrisi, (first from right) and sister Mary Hill (second from left) were in court to hear the sentence. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker
She was handed a non-parole period of 16 years and two months, her earliest possible release date on September 19, 2035.
Supreme Court Justice Helen Wilson described Camilleri’s crime as one of the “most serious instances of manslaughter it is possible … to conjure”.
Camilleri was charged with murder but pleaded not guilty on the basis of substantial impairment due to her constellation of mental disorders.
She was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury in December 2020.
Forensic psychiatrists testified at trial she had autism, obsessive compulsive disorder and a mild intellectual disability, and both agreed she had episodes of uncontrollable rage.
Justice Wilson accepted Camilleri experienced these episodes and her inability to control herself led to the attack on her mother.
But the judge said there was “no question” Camilleri understood what she was doing and that it was wrong, something made clear by the fact she initially, and falsely, told police she acted in self defence.
At least part of the attack — in which Camilleri removed her mother’s eyeballs and squeezed and prodded them — was not anger, the judge said, but “indulging a sort of macabre curiosity sparked by her excessive viewing of horror movies”.
Rita Camilleri was killed by her daughter Jessica in 2019.
Camilleri would watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jeepers Creepers on repeat, her sister sometimes trying to take away the DVDs before they were restored by her mother to “keep the peace”.
Generally, Justice Wilson said, the evidence suggested Rita coped with her daughter by placating her and giving in to her demands.
Camilleri was troubled from an early age and struggled socially at school before she was expelled in Year 10 for assaulting a fellow student.
She frequently pulled other people’s hair and would make repeated, threatening phone calls to strangers.
She saw medical professionals throughout her life, but three months before she killed her mother she began to refuse all prescription medication and started seeing a naturopath.
Rita provided “every support” to her daughter, doing everything she could to ensure Camilleri was never institutionalised, Justice Wilson said.
The judge described Rita as Camilleri’s “carer, protector, and only real friend”.
On the night she died, she had grown so concerned about her daughter’s behaviour that she attempted to call an ambulance.
This was anathema to Camilleri, who feared being institutionalised and wanted to stay at home, the judge said.
A physical struggle ensued over Rita’s mobile phone and escalated into the stabbing frenzy that ended the 57-year-old’s life.
Rita died aware of what was happening and trying to defend herself, Justice Wilson said.
“She must have been in extreme pain, shocked and terrified at what was being done to her by her own beloved child.”