true crime

Celeste Manno shook a stranger's hand. It led to her alleged murder.

Beautiful from the inside out. That’s how Aggie Di Mauro describes her daughter, Celeste Manno. 

“She had this beautiful outlook on the world and people.  She had an innocence about her.  She believed no one was born evil.  She believed everyone had beauty in them," she exclusively told Mamamia.

But at just 23-years-old, Celeste Manno’s life was cut short in the most horrific circumstances, by a man she didn’t know. A man who’d incessantly stalked her for almost 12 months prior to her alleged murder

More than three years later, her alleged killer is yet to face justice, despite having been arrested and charged with her brutal murder. 

Last week, Di Mauro held a candlelight vigil to honour her daughter, and all victims of violent crime, including the 63 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 her alleged killer, 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 allegedly 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 has continued to delay 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.”

Unfortunately, the plea hearing was once again delayed, and has been rescheduled for January 2024.

The vigil went ahead though, because, as Di Mauro says, the message behind the cause is much bigger. 

“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.”

But, 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.

“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.

“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."

Feature image: supplied