Jessica Camilleri allegedly murdered her mother. These are the facts we need to remember.


It’s been all over the news. A picture of a young woman next to a photo of her mother, their features so clearly alike, and a warning of a confronting and graphic story to follow.

The details that the public is privy to are shocking and upsetting.

Late on Saturday night in a suburban home in Sydney’s west, Jessica Camilleri decapitated her 57-year-old mother, Rita, with several knives. Covered in blood, she then knocked on her neighbour’s door and confessed: “I killed my mum.”

Rita’s head was discovered lying nearby on a footpath.

Rita was babysitting her grandson that night, a four-year-old boy believed to be Camilleri’s nephew, when an argument with her 25-year-old daughter erupted,

The boy was in the house during Camilleri’s attack. He was treated at Westmead Children’s Hospital for a minor head injury.

Detective Superintendent Brett McFadden told reporters the crime was “up there with one of the most significant, most horrific scenes police have had to face”.

“There is no stepping away from the fact that this was horrific and a significant attack, and the injuries that the victim suffered were extensive,” he said.

Camilleri faced Parramatta Bail Court on Sunday charged with the murder of her mother.

She did not apply for bail, with her lawyer telling the court she suffers from “severe mental health issues“.

Appearing via video link, Camilleri explained she had been injured and pleaded for help.


“I really need medical attention… I cannot move my fingers because of the incident that happened,” she said.

“I couldn’t even wash myself properly when I had to shower to to get all the blood off.”

She told the magistrate she has a number of mental health conditions, before listing border autism, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

Camilleri is expected to be taken to hospital for medical treatment and a mental health assessment before her next court appearance, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

We don’t know much else but we’ve seen this story play out countless times before.

There’s a murder, horrific violence, and soon we find out that the perpetrator suffers from mental health issues.

A narrative quickly coalesces around these ‘facts’ and as we try to make sense of such a horrifying crime, a familiar commentary around mental illness emerges.

Here are just a few from a Facebook comment section:

Why was a person with so many mental health issues allowed to live with her mum? Why wasn’t she locked up in an institution? 

People who are bipolar and have ASD [autism spectrum disorder] are prone to manic episodes and violent outbursts, sometimes for even the tiniest reasons. 

We can’t be complacent around someone who has such severe mental health issues – they’re unpredictable, you never know how they’ll react in a heated situation. 

In conversations happening all around Australia – at the water cooler in workplaces, the dinner table at home, and online on social media – mental illness starts to get conflated with crime and violence. We focus in on the perpetrator’s mental illness – or love of horror films as Camilleri did – as the reason and motive for their brutal violence. We begin to equate people’s “mental stability” with their propensity towards crime, brutal acts of violence even.


But behind that easy narrative are the facts that tell the true story.

We know the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. There is also no evidence that people on the autism spectrum are more prone to violence than those who are not.

According to Mindframe, many violent people have no history of mental disorder and most people with mental illness (90 per cent) have no history of violence.

In fact, a person with a mental illness is far more likely to be the victim of violence rather than the perpetrator of it.

People suffering from anxiety or bipolar are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else.

Camilleri suffers severe mental health issues. Two days ago, she also murdered her mum, one that loved and supported her throughout her darkest moments, in the most heinous way possible.

We don’t know why such a senseless act of violence happened yet – we might never know – but don’t start pointing to her mental illnesses.

If you need to talk to someone, here are some ways to find support. Beyondblue support service phone 1300 22 4636 or email or chat online at You can also contact Lifeline.