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After her grisly crime, Camilleri is now wreaking havoc in Sydney’s toughest women’s jail.

Sydney woman Jessica Camilleri jailed over St Clair decapitation murder of mother. Video / 7 NewsWARNING: This story contains references to extreme violence and may be upsetting to some readers.
It was early afternoon inside Silverwater Women’s prison’s toughest unit, Willet East, when the latest violent female prisoner to be locked up there lashed out.
It wasn’t the first time Jessica Camilleri had attacked another female inmate in the 18 months since she was incarcerated in the Sydney prison for beheading her own mother.
But just as she had done with 57-year-old Rita Camilleri before she got her hands on the knives, Jessica exploded in rage and grabbed hold of the inmate’s hair.
It was a Thursday afternoon in the recreation area of Willet East and – as she had been when she fatally attacked her mother – Camilleri was hungry and explosively angry.
Willet East is a maximum security section inside the women’s jail formerly known as Mulawa, one of three facilities within Silverwater Correctional Complex, which lies between the Parramatta River and Sydney Olympic Park.
Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre is a maximum-security prison which accommodates up to 374 medium- to high-security women who are either on remand for dangerous crimes, or sentenced.
Willet East can house up to 48 women in different wings, usually inmates who need protection from the main jail population or who are dangerous to other female prisoners.
Jessica Camilleri, now aged 27, could be imprisoned until 2041, although her current earliest release date is in September 2035, pending an appeal against her sentence.
Camilleri is among the worst women offenders to have been housed there, if the gruesomeness of her crime is a factor.
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Cannibal killer
Willet’s alma mater includes depraved cannibal killer Katherine Knight, baby killers Keli Lane, Kristi Anne Abrahams and Rachel Pfitzner, and SB, the mother who starved her daughter Ebony, 7, into a 9kg mummified corpse.
Knight, a white-haired lady known to other inmates as “Nana”, carried out one of Australia’s most diabolical murders, killing and flaying her boyfriend and cooking up his body parts to serve to his children.
Inside Willet East, Australia’s worst female serial killer Kathleen Folbigg once acted as a kind of “den mother” to inmates.
These included a woman convicted of filming herself sexually and indecently assaulting her three children and uploading the video to a child pornography site.
But Folbigg’s reign at Willet East ended when she punched an inmate in 2017 in a fight over a toaster and was moved to another prison.
Within Willet East, and depending on her behaviour post-incarceration, an inmate can spend more than 20 hours a day in her cell and an adjoining small, caged yard.
Her only human contact might be with the highly trained prison officers on Silverwater Women’s staff whose task it is to protect and manage them.
Within Silverwater Women’s are several specialist units, including the Mum Shirl Unit (MSU) with beds for women with behavioural management issues, such as personality disorders, self-harm and suicidal ideation.
Camilleri has been classified as a high-risk offender, and moved from Willet East to a mental health unit like the MSU.
At a hearing last month into the explosive incident in which she attacked the other female inmate by grabbing a clump of her hair, Camilleri claimed her life in jail was a “living hell”.
However, Camilleri may be counted among the damaged or mentally afflicted women inmates who help to make prison officers’ work shifts a challenge.
Camilleri was locked up in Silverwater Women’s after the night of July 20, 2019, when police arrested her at home.
‘Can we sew it back on?’
Police body cam footage captured Camilleri wearing a dress soaked in her mother’s blood babbling about the decapitated head she had dropped on the footpath, and the possibility of sewing it back on.
Camilleri was found guilty of the manslaughter of her mother, who she dragged by the hair into the kitchen of their shared home and attacked with seven knives.
Camilleri, angry she couldn’t order a second Red Rooster dinner order and fearful her mother was sending her off to a psyche unit, acted out scenes from her favourite horror films.
Perhaps desensitised by obsessive viewing of Jeepers Creepers and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the then 25-year-old removed her mother’s head and then her eyeballs.
In the six years before that terrible night, Camilleri had been convicted of two common assaults and two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
But she was never imprisoned, instead discharged into the care of the only person who would abide her, mother Rita.
Now it is the prison system which has to deal with Camilleri, whose trial listed her afflictions as autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, narcissism and intermittent explosive disorder.
Attack on inmate
Just seven weeks after the grisly killing of her mother, Camilleri attacked a Silverwater inmate because “she was upset”.
On September 9, 2019, Camilleri threw a cup of tea over another prisoner after a disagreement about the trading of food.
The day after, CSNSW charged her with a prison offence for fighting.
Camilleri was charged with assault and convicted at Burwood Local Court, with no penalty.
On October 14, 2019, she assaulted another inmate and was given five days in her cell.
On November 3, 2019 she disobeyed a direction, and on July 31 last year she damaged property and was charged A$200 in compensation.
A November 21 assault last year resulted in seven days in the cells, and Camilleri was convicted of common assault in January this year, again with no penalty imposed.
Then on April 15, a Thursday, Camilleri became agitated after being let out of her cell in Willet East following the lunchtime break.
Camilleri was holding three prison meals as she confronted another inmate, a young woman charged with alleged child sex offences.
“I’m still hungry, who should I ask for more food?” Camilleri asked the inmate who responded: “I don’t know haven’t you got enough?”
Prison life ‘hard’
A furious Camilleri grabbed the hair of the inmate, who was seated, and yanked it so that her head “vaulted backwards”.
As prison officers and inmates ran towards the young inmate, Camilleri bolted back to her cell.
The victim was taken to the medical clinic where she complained of soreness and a patch on her scalp where the hair had been removed.
Police from Silverwater prison spoke with the victim, reviewed CCTV footage and then interviewed Camilleri, who claimed the inmate had teased her about her bulimia and was conspiring with others to attack her.
Camilleri claimed she assaulted the victim first so she could be moved from the wing.
At a hearing via video link in Burwood Local Court, Camilleri told Magistrate Sharon Freund she was being told to “watch her back” by inmates.
She told the court life in prison was “hard” and that correctional officers “can’t protect you”.
“Sometimes, and I hate to say it in this courtroom, but other prisoners have been murdered by other prisoners in jail, that’s how it is in jail,” she said.
Camilleri is right.
Two female prisoners who were not initially incarcerated for killing people, but now are convicted killers, have both been inmates in Silverwater’s special management units.
Rebecca Butterfield’s story
Another inmate who became a management problem because of her violence was Rebecca Butterfield, who didn’t enter Australia’s prison system until 2000.
She had committed drug and malicious damage offences, then stabbed a neighbour five times and was sentenced to three years.
In prison, Butterfield quickly became a problem, clocking up dozens of alerts for behaviour including stabbing an officer in the face and throwing boiling water at two officers.
After spending time in segregation at Silverwater Women’s prison, Butterfield was allowed back to the comparative freedom of Emu Plains Correctional Centre.
There, on May 7, 2003, Butterfield took a knife from the day room and attacked 30-year-old Filipina businesswoman Bluce Lim Ward, who was nearing the end of her sentence for fraud.
In the frenzied attack, Butterfield stabbed Ward through her ribs and heart 33 times.
Moved to Silverwater, Butterfield was convicted of manslaughter and began a period of self-harming in prison, which included catastrophically head-butting her cell wall 105 times.
Last year, after 20 years behind bars, Butterfield applied for release to a secure mental health facility.
She had remained in prison five years beyond her 12-year sentence for manslaughter under an order for high-risk offenders.
Previously diagnosed with personality disorders, Butterfield, now aged 47, was only last year diagnosed with schizophrenia.
‘They don’t like me’
Camilleri was convicted just over two weeks ago of assaulting a female inmate and given no penalty on top of her 16 year, two-month minimum sentence for her mother’s manslaughter.
Anxious the proceeding would affect her appeal against the severity of her sentence, Camilleri told Magistrate Sharon Freund: “I don’t understand, this is a waste of time.
“They don’t like me and people outside want me to face more time.
‘I’m looking at a long time in jail. I’ve been targeted because of what the other girls have made me out to be.
“They single me out in prison because of the nature of my crime.
“Corrections removed me from that wing where that fight occurred.
“I don’t know what they’re doing but now there’s some behavioural wing … they want to keep me there for a month before moving me to the women’s prison.
“No matter what I do, no matter where I go other prisoners will make my life a living hell.
“It’s not like the outside world, it’s hard in here.”
Over the five years leading up to the July 2019 beheading of her mother, Camilleri had been charged four times with assaulting people.
But she was released without penalty into her mother’s care after pleading under an exemption of the Mental Health Act known as a Section 32.
Killed her ‘only real friend’
Following her conviction for manslaughter, a report by forensic psychiatrist Dr Richard Furst noted at Camilleri’s sentencing hearing that her prospects for rehabilitation were “very limited”.
“Treatment measures dating back to her childhood have thus far been largely ineffective leaving Ms Camilleri socially isolated and dependent upon her mother now tragically deceased,” he said.
“Upon her eventual release from prison the offender will not have the support and supervision of her mother.
“She will not have a calm and safe family home to go to upon release. What stresses she may face can only be imagined.
“The possibility of a violent outburst against someone in the community looms large. The protection of the community must be a significant consideration.”
As Justice Helen Wilson concluded: “[Rita Camilleri] provided every support to the offender throughout her life.
“And did everything that she could to ensure that, whilst the offender was occasionally hospitalised, she was never institutionalised or placed in any other publicly provided facility for persons with learning or developmental disorders or psychiatric illnesses.
“With the death of Mrs Camilleri, the offender has lost not just her mother, but her carer, protector, and only real friend.
“She is now isolated from family and others who would formerly have supported and assisted her.”