The parents of murder victim Sarah Cafferkey led a round of loud and tearful applause as a judge sentenced their daughter’s killer to die in jail.
And minutes later they vowed to continue the fight to change the system that set Stephen James Hunter free to commit what was his second murder.
Ms Cafferkey’s mother Noelle Dickson declared that justice had been served by the life sentence without the possibility of parole passed on Hunter, 47, by Victorian Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bell.
“Today we stand before you in the knowledge justice has been served for our beautiful daughter, niece, cousin and friend,” she said.
“We thank Justice Bell for a quick and courageous judgment.”
Justice Bell had earlier told Hunter he was guilty of a crime of exceptional horror and brutality.
“The nature of the offence you have committed is … in the worst category of the worst offence on the criminal calendar,” Justice Bell said.
Ms Cafferkey was Hunter’s second murder victim and her death bore chilling similarities to that of his first.
In 1986 Hunter murdered Melbourne schoolgirl Jacqueline Mathews, stabbing her repeatedly then dousing her body in petrol and burning it beyond recognition.
In November last year, 11 days after his parole for another crime expired, Hunter murdered Ms Cafferkey, stabbing her 19 times after beating her with a hammer.
He then drove around for several days with her body in the boot of his car, complaining to a friend that it was starting to smell, before putting it into a wheelie bin and pouring concrete on top of it.
A day after the release of a report that revealed chronic deficiencies in the system that allows dangerous criminals to be released on parole, Justice Bell went to great lengths to explain his decision to condemn Hunter to die behind bars.
He said Hunter deserved “very great credit” for his early guilty plea and that he had exhibited remorse.
“While your crime was monstrous, you are not a monster,” he told Hunter on Wednesday.
“You are not a remorseless psychopath.”
The judge also referred in his sentencing address to international conventions on human rights.
But he said none of those considerations outweighed Ms Cafferkey’s human right to life or the need to protect the community from someone such as Hunter.
“After anxious consideration I have concluded that I should not impose a minimum term,” he said.
As they grasped the meaning of the words, Ms Dickson and Sarah’s father Adrian Cafferkey led heartfelt applause from the public gallery of the Supreme Court and were joined by friends and relatives.
Outside the court Ms Dickson promised to continue her campaign to overhaul Victoria’s adult parole system.
“Community safety is of the utmost importance,” she said.
“Parole is a privilege and not a right.”
Ms Cafferkey’s murder is just one of several committed in Victoria in recent years by killers who were paroled for earlier violent crimes and which led to the judicial inquiry into the state’s Adult Parole Board.