Accused killer pleads not guilty to murder of Celeste Manno

The alleged killer of Celeste Manno has pleaded not guilty to her murder.

Luay Sako, 35, was charged with killing the 23-year-old after allegedly breaking into Ms Manno’s bedroom window at her Mernda home while she was sleeping and stabbing her on November 17 last year. The former work colleague had allegedly been stalking Ms Manno in the year before her death.

Celeste Manno, whose body was found in her home in Mernda in November last year.Credit:Facebook

Dressed in a green jumper, Mr Sako appeared via video link for a short hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday where his lawyer Sam Norton told the court they were not seeking to go to a committal hearing, which would have tested the strength of the evidence against his client.

Instead, Mr Norton asked that the case go straight to the Supreme Court of Victoria, which required Mr Sako to enter a formal plea.

“This is an incredibly difficult and complex matter and we are not in a position at this stage to advance it in a real sense,” Mr Norton said.

“In the circumstances as they prevail at the moment, he will be required to enter a plea of not guilty but that shouldn’t be taken as other than … formalities at this point in time.”

Mr Norton said that he hoped the matter could ultimately resolve without the need for witnesses to be called.

Mr Sako did not speak during the short hearing except to confirm he could hear proceedings and to enter his formal plea of not guilty.

He will next face court on October 5 in the Supreme Court.

Ms Manno’s mother, father, brother and boyfriend watched the hearing via video link.

In July, Mr Sako refused to attend a court hearing, prompting Ms Manno’s mother Aggie Di Mauro to describe it as a “cowardly act”.

Ms Di Mauro has been campaigning for reform to stalking legislation in Victoria since her daughter’s death.

Her advocacy prompted the former attorney-general, Jill Hennessy, to order a review into stalking and harassment, which is being carried out by the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

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