Ligita Sternberg with a portrait and a painting of her daughter Ingrid Lester.
Ligita Sternberg with a portrait and a painting of her daughter Ingrid Lester. Alistair Brightman

Mum regrets not seeing the signs that daughter was abused

WHEN Ligita Sternbergs first met the man who would one day orchestrate the murder of her daughter, she liked him.

Having raised her blonde, animal-loving little girl in a quiet seaside town, Ligita never thought she had reason to fear strangers on the street let alone the smartly dressed man, Jim Lester, who turned up on her door step bearing flowers and chocolates, a traditional gesture which sat well with Ligita's values and European Heritage.

It would be more than 14 years before Ingrid would find the courage to leave the violent monster she had fallen in love with and open up to her mother, who to this day wonders how her instincts failed her.

She had noticed the odd bruise over the years but Ingrid always had a plausible explanation and with no history of violence in her family, the possibility that her daughter was being savagely beaten had not occurred to her.

"When she finally told me she said she used to fight back in the beginning but that after a while it got easier to just take it and wait for it to end…it was quicker that way," Ligita said

"I have a lot of regrets that I live with…could I have done more?

"I should have been alert to the danger and insisted on protecting my daughter."

Mixed in with her own feelings of guilt is anger at court system, which allowed Lester bail while he was awaiting trial for the attempted murder of Ingrid's new partner.

Lester's freedom gave him the chance to pursue Ingrid and eventually arrange for hit man Michael Kinsella to stab her to death at her Pialba home in 2002.

"If he hadn't been released on bail, my daughter would be alive today," she said

"The police can only do so much…There should be no bail for murder or attempted murder no matter what.

It's for this reason Ligita is supporting the Fraser Coast Chronicle's domestic violence campaign, which in the short term aims to encourage a better response from the justice system including a faster turn-around for the processing of domestic violence protection orders which currently accounts for a full day of court time each week.

Ligita hopes the program will become as standard as the stranger danger concept and equip children with the skills they need to confront family violence at its earliest stage.



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