Sabrina Lekaj had her whole life ahead of her. Then her father Petrit Lekaj – a convicted heroin dealer – killed her in a fit of rage.
Sabrina Lekaj had her whole life ahead of her. Then her father Petrit Lekaj – a convicted heroin dealer – killed her in a fit of rage.

He claimed she was throwing her life away – so he killed her

A father murdered his defenceless daughter in a fit of rage over his unfounded fears she was "throwing her life away", a court has heard.

Convicted heroin dealer Petrit Lekaj, 49, stabbed high-achiever Sabrina, 20, eight times as they sat in her white 2002 Mercedes Benz near their western suburbs home on July 21 last year.

Sabrina Lekaj was stabbed to death by her father.
Sabrina Lekaj was stabbed to death by her father.

In an "appalling" case described by a Supreme Court judge as a tragic "irony", the property developer snapped after confronting his daughter about her partying and recreational drug use.

The father of two, who has numerous drugs convictions dating back more than two decades including for heroin trafficking, had armed himself with a 15cm kitchen knife in a deluded belief he would "scare" his daughter.

Accusing her of ignoring his sacrifices, he claimed she was "throwing her life away" with her social life, to which she responded as "a typical insolent" teenager that she "didn't care".

In harrowing details laid bare in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, he took his knife from his trousers and stabbed her in the abdomen while she looked out the passenger window on Kidman Ave, just 250m from their home.

Screaming for her life, and desperately trying to escape the "unprovoked" attack, instead of helping her or calling authorities, he got out the car - a birthday present from him to his daughter - and into the back seat before stabbing her a further seven times as he strangled her.

"It's difficult to overstate how deeply troubling it is that a father would arm himself with a knife even to scare his daughter and then in such ordinary or commonplace circumstances his conduct escalates in this way to murder," prosecutor Melissa Wilkinson told a sentencing submissions hearing.

"(He) told police that he believed, as a result of the events of the Sunday afternoon, his daughter was throwing her life away.

"His response to that which, really, in my submission, remains unexplained was to violently take her life away.

"And its for those reasons that its submitted that his offending should not be viewed at the lower end of the seriousness for offences of this type."

The father bowed his head in the dock as the court heard how the pair drove to get fast food just before 7.30pm from a nearby Hungry Jack's.

Police later launched a large-scale search and was able to speak to the father who had also phoned his wife to confess and say sorry.

They were found at 11.30pm after he drove local streets with her dead body inside.

Sabrina, a well-loved and talented student who had studied classical piano performance and was completing a degree in medical imaging at the University of South Australia, was found dead at the Kidman Park scene.

The white Mercedes in which Petrit Lekaj stabbed his daughter Sabrina in Kidman Park. Picture 7 NEWS
The white Mercedes in which Petrit Lekaj stabbed his daughter Sabrina in Kidman Park. Picture 7 NEWS

Petrit Lekaj, described by friends as a well-known member of Adelaide's Albanian community, suffered serious self-inflicted abdominal injuries.

He told police that "something got into me".

Describing it as among the most serious of its type, Ms Wilkinson wanted to "emphasise the irony" of the case's circumstances after Justice Trish Kelly had expressed similar views.

It was an unprovoked attack on his unarmed daughter - remembered as cherished, ambitious and academically gifted - who should have been safe with him, she said.

"As a 26-year-old himself … was involved in crimes involving illicit drugs and was given opportunity by the courts yet he gave his daughter no opportunity," she said.

"Fundamentally.... Sabrina Lekaj was entitled to trust her father and expect that he would protect her.

"He is described in character references as a devoted family man. There are many comments to that effect.

"She may well have felt the same way, and may well have felt that getting into the car with him on that Sunday night to get takeaway was not a significant or concerning step to take.

"Her safety should not have been compromised or put at risk through a violent attack perpetrated by her father, who had armed himself with a knife and left the house with his daughter."

She condemned the "exceptionally serious violence".

He failed to save her, give first aid, use a nearby mobile phone to call for help or drive a short distance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

She said it was "difficult to fathom" how one or two stab wounds, let alone eight, "that the accused was doing the right thing".

"The fact he took that knife.... at the very least (with) the intention of scaring his daughter, as he told police, is alone very serious," she said.

"He must have appreciated that arming himself with the intention of introducing a knife into a volatile situation would cause the situation to escalate and likely get out of control.

"He could not have believed that the outcome of arming himself with a knife in that situation would be that his daughter would simply be scared into submission.

"He made no attempt to scare her. His first reaction was to stab her. The violence perpetrated on (her) by her father was unprovoked. She was unarmed. She presented no threat to her father and she was unable to defend herself.

She urged Justice Kelly to give "little weight" to character references that described him as loving, devoted man whose crimes were "out of character".

Neither Sabrina's mother, Romina, nor her 11-year-old brother Pyrrhus, gave victim impact statements and did not attend court on Wednesday.

The father, who had not worked for six months before the attack and had suffered mental health issues, is facing life in jail after admitting murder.

Petrit Lekaj in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Sketch: Tim Ide
Petrit Lekaj in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Sketch: Tim Ide

Under state law he is eligible to a discount of up to 40 per cent, which the court heard could mean he would be eligible for a sentence less than the legal minimum of 20 years.

Details of the father's criminal convictions dating back to August 1996 show he was jailed for taking part in the sale of a controlled substance.

Ben Sale, defending, told the court that his client had admitted his guilt almost instantly to the "appalling" crime that he had killed the "apple of his eye" because she had "lied" about her secret partying life.

He should not have killed her, he said, but instead should have reacted with life and support to help her through a "phase".

He added: "So we are left with the question which, in my submission which your Honour has alluded to, of how could a man who has no history of violence, is not a violent or abusive father, who seems well liked and known as being a kind and family man, do what he did that day?

"Regrettably neither (the psychiatrist) or myself, or indeed the prisoner have any answers for your Honour."

He said his client's "state of mind" and "medical problems" were highly relevant.

He said his client could not explain his actions, but was "disinterested" in any heavy sentence because he felt he should be in "hell".

Justice Kelly, who described the case as highly "complicated", remanded him in custody ahead of sentencing next week.

 

 

Sabrina Lekaj
Sabrina Lekaj

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