Surprise as tug-of-love Manny flies home to Italy

By Jasmine Miller in Singapore
October 3, 2004
The Sun-Herald


Manny with her mother, who was killed in the embassy blast, and her Italian stepfather, Manuel Musu.
Photo: Reuters

Five-year-old Elisabeth Manuela Banbin Musu is going home to Verona.

The Italian Government confirmed yesterday it is sending a special plane with two doctors to Singapore today, and the Jakarta bomb victim will leave for Verona tomorrow, said Laura Siano, an administrative attache with the Italian embassy in Singapore.

In Verona, where Manny's stepfather, Manuel Musu, and his family live, doctors will be waiting to take the little girl to hospital. The Venetian regional government will take care of her medical expenses.

Ms Siano, who has been helping Mr Musu and his father, Enrico, during their stay in Singapore, said a serious wound on Manny's back has yet to heal, but she is eating and talking normally.

Manny is still too weak to walk, but can move the right side of her body.

There had been fears that the child would be paralysed because of a blood clot and shrapnel lodged in her brain as a result of the blast outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta that that killed Manny's mother and left at least nine other people dead.

"It's a miracle to see her like this now," said Ms Siano. "Less than three weeks ago, we didn't even know if she was going to wake up."

Yesterday, the child's two fathers - Mr Musu, 31, who married her mother, Maria Eva Kumalawati, when she was expecting Manny; and David Norman, 25, a Sydney policeman who is Manny's biological father - issued a joint statement through the Australian High Commission: "We both dearly love Manny, and we have come to this agreement mutually. We consider each other family, and we both can see that her best interests at this time in her life are all that matter."

Both agreed that letting Manny resume her life in Italy would be in her best interest.

In his statement, Mr Norman said he would continue to provide help for her medical needs and education. He will also set up a trust fund for her in the NSW Police Credit Union, contributing money he received from an interview with Channel Seven and any public donations.

"As much as I would dearly love to raise Manny and see her grow up on a daily basis, I am willing, in her best interests, to let her return to the life she had in Italy," he said. "I have come to respect and admire Manuel - with the way he has handled this difficult situation, he has shown he is a devoted and loving father.

"I feel that Manuel will let me be involved in Manny's life and I will always love her and want the best possible life for her.

"This is an act of love on my behalf, and an act of trust. I will continue to provide assistance for her medical needs and education, and, when she is older, she may come to Australia to study and spend time with myself and my family."