Digital art for The Daily Telegraph
Digital art for The Daily Telegraph

Beheader accused charged four times before mum’s murder

WARNING: Graphic content

THEY Sydney woman accused of cutting off her mother's head and leaving it in a neighbour's front yard had been charged four times for assaulting people, but was released each time on the grounds she was mentally ill.

Over the past five years Jessica Camilleri has appeared in NSW local courts for attacking people, including her aunt, only to be freed after successfully applying for an exemption known as a Section 32 under the Mental Health Act.

Her repeated offending has posed serious questions about the mental health care she received after being released into the community.

Jessica Camilleri. Picture: Facebook
Jessica Camilleri. Picture: Facebook

 

Opposition health spokesman Ryan Park called for an urgent review, saying: "It's clear there's been a severe breakdown in the process that should have happened and it's important that an urgent review investigates what happened and ensures it doesn't happen again.

"That should include Section 32 of the Mental Health Act."

Rita Camilleri, 57, was found murdered at her St Clair home.
Rita Camilleri, 57, was found murdered at her St Clair home.

Last night in London, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman hinted at a possible review of Camilleri's case in the wake of her violent past being revealed.

"Every time there is a serious case like that we look at what learnings we can have," he said. "Look, I think the balance (between victims and mentally ill perpetrators) is broadly right but if it could be recalibrated in any way we will look at that. (From) those serious cases we see what lessons can be learned. We always look at what learnings we can make from cases that appear to go wrong."

Police will allege Camilleri, 25, used kitchen knives to attack her mother Rita and decapitate her inside the family home at St Clair just before midnight on Saturday.

A four-year-old child was also present at the time.

Camilleri then rang police before allegedly carrying her mother's severed head down the road and putting it in the front yard of a neighbour's home. She was later arrested and charged with murder.

In March this year police and paramedics attended the home at 2am following reports of screaming but they did not arrest her after she calmed down and her mother said she would take care of her. Paramedics and senior police have told The Daily Telegraph the problem lies with a lack of mental health facilities and the reluctance of doctors to commit people to institutions.

Police at St Clair Ave in St Clair. Picture: David Swift.
Police at St Clair Ave in St Clair. Picture: David Swift.

"We need the health department to do their job and follow up on patients, or not release them when they are not fit to go back into the community,'' one officer said.

He said it was not uncommon for police and ambulance officers to be called to an address within hours after someone has been released from hospital. "There is only so much we can do,'' he said.

Victims groups have attacked the lack of follow-up for the mentally ill once they are released, either by the court or from hospitals.

"There is no follow-up in so many cases, its appalling,'' victim's advocate Howard Brown said. Support After Murder president Peter Rolfe said: "Mental health issues in NSW have been going downhill for years and the victims are not just those who are murdered but often the perpetrators let down by the system.''

Camilleri range police before allegedly carrying her mother’s head down the road. Picture: David Swift.
Camilleri range police before allegedly carrying her mother’s head down the road. Picture: David Swift.