Court Fails To Punish Murder
'Killer Mum Weeps As Judge Sets Her Free' The Courier-Mail, 7/7/2000

A MOTHER who stole back and stabbed to death the toddler she was forced to adopt out walked free yesterday. Maria Giulia Sette, 32, wept with relief as she left court with a two-year suspended jail sentence.

Sette spent only 24 days behind bars for stabbing to death 15-month-old James after he called her "mummy" for the first time in February last year.

NSW Supreme Court Justice Graham Barr said during sentencing yesterday that the bare facts of the case seemed "brutal indeed". But jail was not called for because of "quite extraordinary" circumstances.

The single mother admitted snatching the child from his adoptive parents during a picnic at Daylesford in central Victoria, and dumping his body in a dam across the NSW border at Moama.

Sette was forced into the adoption by her strict Italian parents and was offered little emotional support, Justice Barr said. The court was told Sette had few friends and rock-bottom self esteem after being raped in her teens. She attempted suicide several times before killing James.

Justice Barr accepted that Sette was remorseful, her depression was treatable and her unsupportive family had seen the error of its ways.

Clad in black and wearing dark glasses, Sette said few words as she left the court. "I'm sorry, no comment," she whispered, shrugging her shoulders. She fled with sister Lucy and brother Dominic in a hired car.

Her lawyer Bernard Balmer said he hoped the community, including the adoptive parents, would forgive her.

"The community, I think, don't need to have someone like her go to jail," he said. "We're pretty happy to be taking her back home."

Adoptive parents Fiona Strahan and Jack Gilding said they were exhausted.

"I feel like I'm about 75 right now and I just want to go back and claim our lives," Ms Strahan said. "I don't think (the sentence) has sunk in yet, and I don't really think in the end it matters."

The couple said they would always carry an overwhelming sense of wasted life.

Sette is expected to return to the family home in the Melbourne suburb of Templestowe and resume working at their newsagency.