David Cassai’s mother, Caterina Politi, outside the Supreme Court. Photo: Mal FaircloughLike so many Australian parents, Caterina Politi was on tenterhooks when her young son travelled around Europe – courting danger in Pamplona where he ran with the bulls, partying in Ibiza and drinking steins at Munich’s Oktoberfest.
She could never have expected her worst fears would be realised outside a Rye pizza shop a few months later, where David Cassai would be killed in an unprovoked attack by 18-year-old stranger, Dylan John Closter.
“He wasn’t anyone famous, but to know the impact he had on his family and friends, it has left a huge hole that will never be filled. People say, ‘You’ve got two daughters’, but I’ve lost my only son. Some days I think it’s getting easier then the next day I’ll fall in a heap,” Ms Politi said.
“But I’m so proud to be David’s mum, as much as I want David to be here. I would hate to be Dylan Closter’s mum,” she said.
On Thursday, Closter was sentenced to nine years and three months with a non-parole period of six years after he pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and one count of affray.
Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said Mr Cassai did nothing to provoke the “gratuitous attack” where in the space of less than a minute, one man was dead.
“What happened that night was entirely your making,” the judge said to Closter in sentencing.
While Closter’s life is not ruined, it has been irreparably damaged by the tragic and senseless events of New Year’s Eve 2012.
Fuelled by Galliano and mindless bravado, Closter and four mates had been looking for trouble when they encountered Mr Cassai and five friends returning from celebrations at the Portsea Hotel.
Closter deliberately bumped Mr Cassai as he walked along Point Nepean Road, before abusing him and goading him to fight.
Ms Politi says she wishes her son put his hands up to protect himself. “I wish he’d done something to defend himself, but that just wasn’t him. He was such a gentle kid.”
But Closter, a combat sports enthusiast, shaped up and unleashed a flurry of punches as Mr Cassai stumbled to avoid the confrontation.
Closter’s mates joined the fray, one calling out, “Welcome to Rye, c—-.”
The death of the 22-year-old landscape gardener was as senseless as it was familiar. A “round house” punch to the head, a sickening thud as he hit the pavement and the end of yet another promising young life.
Rather than render assistance, the apprentice plumber danced around the crumpled body of his victim, while one of his group yelled “This is what we came here for”, according to at least one witness.
Reports of Mr Cassai’s death on New Year’s Day 2013 sent a shudder through every parent. Many would have reached for phones to check their loved ones had made it home unscathed.
Ms Politi buried her only son on January 11, 2013, after a heartbreaking funeral at St Clement Church in Bulleen, not far from the family home in Templestowe.
His sisters Elisa and Luisa spoke about a young man with a dazzling smile and an irresistible sense of humour. A bloke who regularly kissed friends and strangers on the lips for a lark. He was a “Peter Pan”, who told them “mystical stories of places no one else had been to”, as he led them on childhood adventures through the sand dunes of Rye.
At a bail hearing in January 2013, Closter claimed he was the one who had been assaulted, knocked to the ground and kicked while on all fours. He claimed he lashed instinctively at the person nearest.
While Closter’s family released a statement expressing sympathy towards David’s family and friends, Ms Politi says she’s never been directly contacted. She says the time for an apology has long passed.
“If he had of pleaded guilty within the first couple of months of killing David, I could have begun to accept remorse, but not 19 months down the track,” she said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.