By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A Dandenong man has been jailed after fatally stabbing a 20-year-old Springvale man in central Oakleigh last year.
Lindim Aliti, now 19, pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court of Victoria to manslaughter – a downgrading of the original murder charge.
His unarmed victim Thomas Tran was stabbed once in the hip and once in the heart after a brawl between two rival groups of young men on the evening of 29 June 2020.
Mr Tran had given up chasing Aliti’s associates and was walking back to join his friends when Aliti attacked him in a “senseless act of violence”.
It was “hard to fathom why (Aliti) overreacted so viciously to his fear”, Justice Michael Croucher said in sentencing on 13 December.
“While Mr Aliti was frightened and in a state of panic at the time of the stabbing, Mr Tran had given up the chase moments before, was unarmed, was showing no aggression and posed no actual threat to him.
“Horribly, this all ended in an irretrievable tragedy.
“Within minutes, Mr Tran died where he fell.”
It all started with the trading of “innocuous” and “puerile” middle-finger gestures between three young males.
Within an hour, the males got back-up.
Two groups aged 15-20 years faced off in the car park, with an outnumbered group armed with poles, machete and a knife being chased by their rivals through the streets.
Mr Tran, a “cherished only child”, died while his “adult life was just beginning and was so full of promise”, Justice Croucher said.
His loved ones were “devastated – they still are and always will be”.
It was “heartbreaking” to describe Mr Tran’s mother tending her son’s grave, or Mr Tran’s father putting on his son’s clothes and lying on his son’s bed to feel close to him.
“Yet it must be another thing altogether for his family to live this awful reality.”
Meanwhile, Aliti, “in many ways, still just a boy”, was “marred forever” by the consequences.
At the time, the gifted student and son of Albanian migrants had been unemployed, smoking dope and playing video games at home.
But he was a “capable young man with a supportive family” with insight, remorse, prior good character and “outstanding” prospects for reform, Justice Croucher said.
“While he has done a terrible thing, he is not a monster.”
Justice Croucher noted Aliti’s “heartless” remark to a friend less than an hour later: “That’s one down now … confirmation.”
It sprung from “immature bravado” rather than “innate nastiness”, the judge said.
Also to his detriment, Aliti fled the scene without offering help, disposed of his clothes and destroyed his SIM card at a Dandenong South shisha lounge and pool hall that evening.
The knife was never found.
Justice Croucher said he “agonised” over the “especially difficult” sentence – balancing the “terrible” act with Aliti’s rehabilitation.
Due to his epilepsy, Aliti was at risk of “poorer seizure control” and “harm” in custody.
“I know that there is nothing this Court can say or do to salve, let alone heal, the grief and pain suffered by Mr Tran’s loved ones. The sentence I must impose is not a reflection of the worth of his young life.
“I must not impose a sentence that is more severe than that which is necessary to achieve the purposes for which the sentence is imposed.”
Justice Croucher rejected a defence submission for Aliti to be sentenced to a youth justice centre. That would have constrained Aliti’s custody to a “disproportionate” maximum four years.
He jailed Aliti for up to six-and-a-half years in adult prison, including non-parole of three-and-a-half years.
Justice Croucher recommended to the Adult Parole Board for Aliti’s transferral to a youth justice centre “as soon as may reasonably be possible”.
This would better foster Aliti’s rehabilitation, who was “so young, immature, impressionable and likely to be subjected to undesirable influences in adult prison”.
“His ultimate reform is as important to the community as it is to Mr Aliti.”