true crime

Russell Manser spent 23 years in jail. He'll be remembered for what he did in his final years.

This story discusses child sexual abuse. 

Russell Manser was just 15 the first time he found himself on the wrong side of the law. 

Growing up in Mount Druitt, Western Sydney, the impressionable teen saw local criminals return from jail and lauded as heroes. 

And so he followed in their footsteps, beginning a life of crime. Aged 15, he stole a car and ended up in a police chase. 

Manser was arrested and placed into a correctional facility called Daruk Boys Home.

During his time at Daruk, Manser recalled being woken up by an officer one evening and told to go to the ablutions block. Scared and alone, he obliged. He was then sexually abused by the officer.

He had nowhere to turn and nobody he could share his story with. Instead, he buried the trauma and shame deep down inside.

As soon as he was released from Daruk, Manser continued down a criminal path, this time seeking out luxury cars.

After being arrested for stealing a Porsche in Sydney's Whale Beach, a judge sentenced him to 12 months in one of Australia's harshest adult prisons. He was just 17 years old.

Terrified, he was imprisoned in Long Bay Correctional Complex in Matraville unaware of the horror that would unfold and change his life forever.

On his first day, he was placed in a cell with two convicted pedophiles. The officer who locked him up turned to the men and said, "Have fun boys."

That evening, Manser was sexually abused. And the next day and the next.

Then one of his sexual abusers offered Manser heroin, which he accepted. Anything to numb the pain, to help him forget. 


It wasn't long before he became a drug addict, completely dependent on heroin. Once out of Long Bay, he needed to fund his addiction and so he began robbing banks.

Eventually, he ended up back at Long Bay Jail where he entered into a three-month programme called the Special Care Unit with the intention of rehabilitating repeat offenders. 

At first, it was a success. After being released from jail around 2005, Manser lived life on the straight and narrow. He opened a gym business, found a partner, got clean and welcomed two sons.

But eventually, his demons crept back in. He relapsed and his marriage fell apart. Then he began robbing banks again. By 2014 he was back in jail.

After 23 years in the prison system stuck in a cycle of addiction and crime, this felt like rock bottom. 

Manser became determined to get clean and turn his life around once and for all. 

In December 2017, he spoke at a Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, telling his story for the first time. 

@russellmanserofficial1 Let’s do this together #victimsofabuse #abusesurvivor #abuseawareness #healing #mentalhealthawarenesss #healingjourney #russellmanser #fightagainstabuse #victim #survivor ♬ original sound - russellmanserofficial1

Manser could see the impact his words had on fellow survivors so he decided to channel his past into advocacy. 

He began sharing videos on TikTok, spreading his message and fighting for action against sexual abuse, eventually amassing 140,000 followers.

He started an advocacy service called The Voice Of A Survivor which assists survivors of institutional abuse and created a podcast called The Stick Up on which he interviewed other abuse survivors, fellow advocates and public figures like Braith Anasta.


We don't often hear about criminal rehabilitation and reform success stories but Russell Manser certainly was one.

Sadly, this weekend, it was announced Manser had passed away aged 56. 

At this stage it is unknown what caused Manser's death however Daily Mail have reported that he was found "unresponsive" at a residential property in Sydney.

His son Ky Manser, 22, posted about his loss on Instagram. 

Ky Manser with his late father Russell. Image: Instagram/@kymanser_

"RIP dad," he wrote alongside a picture of the two together. He added that he has been grieving with his family while processing the news. "I've just lost my best friend."

Fellow survivor and advocate, Harrison James, wrote on Instagram:

"Today, the survivor community mourns the loss of a dear friend, Russell Manser. His sudden departure leaves us speechless, a poignant reminder of life’s fragility. Despite our brief encounters, Russell’s impact was profound.

"He turned his own struggles into a beacon of hope, dedicating himself to supporting survivors of child sexual abuse. His legacy transcends boundaries, offering solace to those battling addiction, crime, and mental health."


Given his large number of followers and supporters, Manser's death has sparked a number of tributes which have come flooding through across his social media accounts.

"He’s one of my favourite creators I’m so sorry to his partner and family and friends," wrote one TikTok user.

"Absolutely shattered! Thank you for being so real and raw. But most of all thank you for the inspiration and strength. You made moving forward that bit easier. Rest easy Russell and deepest condolences," wrote another.

His girlfriend Liliana Gagic also paid tribute to her late partner in an Instagram post.


"Goodbye my lover, until we meet again. Time for long waited Nellie love ❤️," she wrote alongside a series of pictures of the pair.

Feature Image: Instagram/@russellmanserofficial_,@kymanser_

If this brings up any issues for you, contact Bravehearts, an organisation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse, on 1800 272 831. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.