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‘I thought this only happens in movies’: A bereaved mother takes up the anti-violence campaign

Grace Donato was at the gym this week when she overheard “a terribly familiar story”, one that up until the murder of her daughter, 20 year-old Adriana Donato, in August 2012, she believed only happened in movies.

Adriana, a bachelor of science student at Melbourne University, had attended a small birthday party at a friend’s place when her former boyfriend, James Stoneham, then 21, arrived to look for her. She had ended their high-school relationship the previous December but Stoneham had not accepted it.

Grace Donato, whose daughter Adriana was murdered aged 20, felt "the story was terribly familiar" when she heard of Celeste Manno's killing this week.

Grace Donato, whose daughter Adriana was murdered aged 20, felt “the story was terribly familiar” when she heard of Celeste Manno’s killing this week.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“It was a weeknight, she went to a friend’s place with her girlfriend because he was turning 21 and the mother organised a birthday cake – he knew she was going there and rang a friend in there, [though Adriana] said ‘no’ they convinced her to go out,” said Ms Donato, who this year joined the State government’s violence Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council.

Stoneham, who Supreme Court Justice Michael Croucher heard had planned the attack meticulously for three weeks, had never hurt Ms Donato before but, says Ms Donato, “he was always controlling of her behaviour”.

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