true crime

For months before her murder, Celeste Manno's killer bombarded her with texts.

The man who brutally stabbed 23-year-old Celeste Manno following a campaign of prolonged, intense stalking has appeared in court, where his disturbing text messages were revealed.

Luay Sako pleaded guilty to Celeste’s murder in April, appearing in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Monday for a pre-sentence hearing. 

“I'm sorry but I can't stop thinking about you. I have never felt like this about anybody in my entire life, it's bordering along a OCD. I'm totally infatuated with you, captivated and fascinated by you. You're all I think about,” he wrote in one message to Celeste. 

“After leaving you my productivity and my personal life in my new job has been impacted. This obsession with you, which is a crush, is an addictive and destructive feeling that is interfering with my ability to concentrate, deal with others and go about my daily routine.”

Like many stalking victims, Celeste initially tried to deal with Sako herself. 

“Hi Luay, those are really sweet words and I appreciate you saying all of that to me. I'm a bit surprised to read this all as it is new to me,” she wrote.

“As much as I appreciate this, I only feel in a professional way towards you and I wish you all of the best in your new job and journey.”

But the messages continued, prompting Celeste to plead with Sako to leave her alone. This didn’t deter him, but his tone changed. 

“My impression of you has changed. You're no different to the majority of women. I'll remember you and this lesson for all life and I will devote every ounce of energy I have to climbing up and proving to the world that I'm somebody. 


"That is my promise to you and my final contact with you.”

It wasn’t, and eventually Celeste told Sako she planned to contact the police, the court heard. Her warning seemed to work, with the messages ceasing for some time. But during the Covid-10 lockdowns, things ramped up again (research shows stalking overall increased during this time).

In July, Sako was issued an interim intervention order, which he contested, however he was arrested for breaching the order the following month. Despite his arrest, Sako was released back into the community. 

'He's really going to kill me,' Celeste told her colleague, it was revealed. 

In November 2020, as Celeste slept, Sako broke into her family home and brutally stabbed her to death. Celeste was left with 23 stab wounds, though her killer disputes this, claiming to be responsible for just two. 

The court heard Celeste fought for her life. After the murder, Sako called police and confessed.  

'She's dead. Go have a look,' he said. 'You know what happened. It's your fault.'

Sako used a number of legal loopholes to delay the court process for more than three years. 


As the hearing continues, Celeste's heartbroken mother, Aggie Di Mauro, has urged the public to attend the open court. 

"Celeste's tragic death stirred a mix of community outrage, sadness, and an incredible outpouring of support," she says. "Seeing people attend the hearing would mean a great deal to me and my family because it sends a powerful message to the courts - even after all this time, Celeste is not forgotten," says Di Mauro. 

"It shows we're united in our quest for justice, and their presence and support reinforces our community's unwavering commitment to ensuring that Celeste gets the justice she deserves."

Watch: women and violence, the hidden numbers. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Sako is representing himself, having revealed his intention to withdraw legal instruction from Victoria Legal Aid barrister Tim Marsh and his legal team in court last week. 

Late last year, Di Mauro held a candlelight vigil to honour her daughter, and all victims of violent crime, including the 75 women and children, killed by male violence in 2023 alone. 


Di Mauro wants Australia to know her daughter; to remember her daughter. She wants justice; and she wants change. 

Picture: Supplied

Who is Celeste Manno? 

Celeste Manno was in the prime of her life, a newly appointed team manager at a call centre, when she came across Sako, who had just been assigned to her team. When he was put on notice to leave the company a short time later, Celeste was required to escort him to the exit door. She shook his hand and wished him well. 


That simple interaction was little more than a passing moment in Celeste's otherwise busy workday, but for the alleged killer, it triggered a dangerous obsession; an obsession that began with cyberstalking three days after he left the company, and ended in murder.

It’s alleged the man tracked Celeste down via social media and began repeatedly sending messages. She politely asked him to leave he alone, but the message kept coming. She blocked him, but he made new accounts. This obsession continued for months, before Di Mauro became worried, and urged her daughter to make a police report. 

Unlike most victim-survivors of this type of stalking, she did go to the police, receiving a response familiar to many victims of stalking. Block him, she was told. She had, but the stalking continued, with Celeste receiving more than 150 messages from multiple social media accounts for almost an entire year. 

When Celeste returned to the police, she was told to take out a Personal Safety Intervention Order - an order imposed by a magistrate that is designed to protect one person from another's aggressive or harassing behaviour. Unfortunately, the order wasn't enough to save Celeste's life. 

As she slept peacefully in her bedroom, in the safety of her mother's home, her former colleague allegedly broke into the house and brutally stabbed her to death. 


He was charged with murder, but repeatedly delayed proceedings due to legal loopholes. 

Picture: Supplied

What went wrong?

When Celeste was murdered, Di Mauro and other members of her family called on the Victorian Government to tighten laws around stalking offences. In 2020, a petition calling for tougher laws was launched via 

While laws and legislations in relation to stalking do exist, they're not effectively enforced, with a range of loopholes and lack of education leaving many victim-survivors responsible for their own protection. 


In June 2021, following pressure from Celeste's family and friends, and growing interest from the public, the Victorian Law Reform Commission called for submissions to gauge community beliefs about the current stalking system and what needed to change. A series of recommendations were established as a result of the commission, but little real action has taken place.

"Our government in power has decided to ignore every promise they made to me at this point," Di Mauro says. 

"Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes, hasn't even honoured her commitment to meet with me. No one is acting on this with any urgency whatsoever. I hope the turnout at Celeste’s vigil gives them a clear message that the community as a whole expects them to act. I've put in a request for a meeting with the Shadow Attorney General, Michael O'Brien, and I'm hoping to hear back from him soon."

Di Mauro has called for the electronic monitoring of stalking offenders, and believes Celeste's murder could have been prevented had her alleged killer been monitored after being served with the Intervention Order. 

An emotional Di Mauro told those who attended her daughter’s vigil that she was always strict with her daughter, even as she got older. 

"She knew that everything I did was to keep her safe (and) I knew how blessed I was to have that understanding from her. Unfortunately all the overprotection in the world from me, couldn't keep her safe."


Picture: Instagram/@davidlimbrickmp

A heartbroken mum calls for change.

"I refuse to let this beast before the courts go down under the radar," says Di Mauro. 

"So, I basically said to Celeste: 'Let's shine the spotlight on you again sweetie'. Hence the decision to hold her vigil just after the plea hearing. I wanted to make sure we remembered all victims of crime. Some of them have never even made the news. I know Celeste would’ve wanted me to think of them also."


Di Mauro wants to encourage the families of victims of crime to demand the justice they so deserve. 

"I'm sure I come across as this strong mother who has somehow managed to come to terms with the loss of her daughter. That couldn't be further from the truth," she says.

"Once we buried Celeste, I couldn't cope with life without her. I still can’t. I had two choices. The first is a choice that would end so much pain for me, but I know it would be selfish with regards to my son, Alessandro, and of course my sisters Grace and Melinda, and my nephew Jesse.

"So, in order to cope, I buried myself into researching these laws. I've never agreed with our justice system, and now that my family and I are actually faced with it, I need to do everything humanly possible to change at the very least, the things we can change."

Di Mauro believes the current system punishes victims, giving perpetrators the opportunity to not only defend themselves, but evade criminal responsibility altogether. 

"It's a system that expects those who have lost their loved ones, that they must understand and show mercy. That is seen through the loopholes of the Crimes Mental Impairment Act 1997 and the contradictions in the sentencing purposes and principles of the Sentencing Act 1991," she tells Mamamia.


"The only way I can continue to exist without Celeste, is to do everything and anything I can to make our legislators see that as a community we won’t stand for these laws anymore. And I will leave no stone unturned."

But Di Mauro says she needs community support. While she's grateful to those who attended the vigil, without the strength of numbers, Di Mauro says there's limited chance of any real action from politicians. 

"When this is over, I intend to do a lot. And I am praying that the community does believe that we can have strength in numbers, and they'll join me. Because I'll never be able to do it alone."

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

This article as originally published in November 2023, and has since been updated with new information.

Feature Image: Supplied