A man charged with the gruesome stabbing murder of a young graduate has officially pleaded not guilty to the killing.
Luay Nader Sako, 36, of Roxburgh Park appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court via videolink from jail on Monday where he entered the not guilty plea.
It is the first time Sako has been seen in court since his arrest in November over the brutal stabbing murder of Celeste Manno.
Celeste Manno, 23, was allegedly murdered in her Melbourne home in November last year
Luay Sako, 35, handed himself in to local police hours after Ms Manno’s death and was taken to hospital under police guard, and was charged with murder
The 35-year-old allegedly smashed through his former colleague’s window at her family home in Mernda, in Melbourne’s northeast, before repeatedly stabbing her with a knife as she lay in bed about 4.10am.
He then allegedly fled over a fence that was left stained with blood.
Sako handed himself in to local police hours later and was taken to hospital under police guard and treated for a hand injury that required surgery.
At his first court hearing in November – one of many he refused to attend in person – the court heard Sako had no mental health issues and was not on any medication at the time his 23-year old victim was allegedly killed.
His barrister, Sam Norton from Stary Norton Halphen, now hopes to have his client cleared on the grounds of mental impairment.
He told the court on Monday Sako’s not guilty plea was based on medical opinion.
Mr Norton told the court he hoped the matter would be resolved by his next court appearance in October.
‘We hope we will resolve this without witnesses being called,’ he said.
Ms Manno’s older brother Jayden Manno was on the link to hear his sister’s alleged killer enter the not guilty plea.
Ms Manno was Sako’s team leader at a Serco call centre before he was fired from the role
Sako had been freed to live in the community at the time of the alleged murder after being charged with breaching a restraining order.
Ms Manno was Sako’s team leader at a Serco call centre in South Morang and comforted him when he left the company a year earlier.
Sako’s family was devastated by his arrest and said they didn’t know much about what he had been doing at the time.
He had been unemployed and living at his parent’s house.
There was an outpouring of grief over the shocking death of Ms Manno, who was supposed to be celebrating her birthday that week.
Ms Manno’s boyfriend Chris Ridsdale was among many family and friends who mourned the beloved young woman in the days after her death.
‘She was supposed to be having Christmas with our family. Her family. Her mother. Her brothers,’ he said at the time.
Mr Ridsdale revealed her excitement to upload the first photo of them as a couple to her social media profiles.
‘We took this picture on Saturday this week,’ he wrote.
‘We talked and joked about how this would be the first picture of us together on her social media and she was so excited to share it with everyone.
‘I was told, very clearly, that this was to be my new profile picture.’
Mr Ridsdale said he rarely uses his social media accounts, but uploaded it on as a special tribute Ms Manno.
‘Now it seems like the best thing I can do for her. To show everyone how much she meant to me and how beautiful she was,’ he said.
Ms Manno is pictured with her partner, Chris Ridsdale, who had been looking forward to celebrating her birthday the week she was killed
In the weeks following Ms Manno’s death, the father of Melbourne woman Courtney Herron backed calls by her family for immediate change to Victoria’s justice system.
There has been an outpouring of grief for Ms Manno
John Herron told Daily Mail Australia that the Victorian Government needed to take immediate steps to end violence against women.
The death of Ms Manno has brought back haunting memories for Mr Herron of the day his daughter was murdered.
In May 2019, Courtney, was bashed to death in a Melbourne park in the most horrific of ways.
Her killer Henry Hammond was later found not guilty by a judge who accepted he was mentally impaired at the time.
‘Our family’s heart sinks at yet another young woman’s life brutally cut short,’ Mr Herron told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It seems to be an endless cycle and yet there is very little that the authorities are doing to address the situation.’
Ms Manno’s father, Tony Manno, said the justice system had let his girl down.
‘It let my daughter down,’ he said. ‘And it’s gotta be changed. It won’t bring her back but it has to be changed.’
Jayden Manno expressed similar concerns over Victoria’s revolving door justice system.
‘It’s harrowing. Such a senseless act,’ Jayden said.
‘It should never have happened to our family, not to anyone’s family. This can’t happen.’
Grieving family: Ms Manno’s brothers Jayden (left), Alesandro, uncle Gabriel and father Tony Manno, with her beloved baby niece Daisy, addressed the media in November
A grief-stricken man is pictured laying flowers outside the home of Ms Manno
Pictured: The crime scene in Mernda where Ms Manno was found dead