Gittany supporters in silent protest
RAW VISION: Supporters of convicted murderer Simon Gittany arrive at Sydney’s Darlinghurst Supreme Court ahead of his sentence hearing.
PT1M0S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-320bd 620 349 February 5, 2014 – 11:26AM
Convicted killer Simon Gittany has told the family of his late fiancee that his “heart goes out” to them, but adamantly told his sentencing hearing that Lisa Harnum “did not die as a result of being murdered”.
Gittany, 40, gave evidence in the NSW Supreme Court with a quivering voice on Wednesday, saying he had been wrongly convicted of throwing his fiancee to her death from the 15th floor of their Sydney apartment block in 2011.
“I was found guilty of a crime and I maintain my innocence – I did not kill Lisa Harnum,” Gittany said.
Simon Gittany: pictured outside court before his conviction. Photo: James Brickwood
“I would never, ever kill anybody. I am Christian, God-fearing, I believe in God, always have.”
He said he could not begin to imagine the loss Ms Harnum’s mother Joan and brother Jason had suffered.
“I could only imagine what their loss must be like and my heart goes out to them and I am sorry at the loss … [but] your daughter and sister did not die as a result of being murdered,” he said.
Showing support: Simon Gittany’s partner Rachelle Louise, left, holds a sign outside court with other protesters. Photo: Peter Rae
“I was in a relationship with Lisa Harnum and we were in love. She was my fiancee and we were close and I was shocked at her death and traumatised by the whole circumstances surrounding it,” he said.
“Being charged with her murder was trauma on top of trauma.”
Murdered: Lisa Harnum.
Gittany was called into the witness box after the Crown called fresh evidence from a former friend of Ms Harnum, who claimed Gittany had previously threatened to kill his girlfriend and make it look like suicide.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, had known Ms Harnum through the Australian Hair and Beauty College at Bondi.
She said the former ballerina had told her several times that Gittany had threatened to kill her if she ever left him.
Speaking out: Joan Harnum. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
“He said that if he killed her he would make it look like suicide,” the woman told the NSW Supreme Court.
“I said ‘look just leave’ and she said, ‘I can’t; he will kill me.’ “
The woman also said Ms Harnum had expressed fear about leaving Gittany and that he would never stop looking for her.
“He said he would track her down and find her, no matter what.”
Gittany sat in the dock shaking his head furiously and at one point muttered under his breath, “That’s unbelievable.”
His girlfriend, Rachelle Louise, and his family laughed loudly from the public gallery as the woman told of the number of conversations she had with Ms Harnum about her abusive relationship.
The woman told the court she only came forward to police after hearing media reports about Gittany’s murder trial late last year.
She said she had not come forward earlier because she thought there would have been “ample evidence” but felt compelled to when she heard that Gittany had hidden a hard drive, which possibly contained footage of Ms Harnum’s last moments.
The new witness said Ms Harnum would speak of his death threats every few days over the course of four to six weeks.
Defence barrister Philip Strickland, SC, brought the new witness to tears, claiming she had fabricated her evidence after reading media reports.
He told the court he needed to gain further instructions from his client during the lunch break in light of the new evidence.
Earlier, Ms Harnum’s mother, Joan, pleaded for an end to violence against women, calling for “my daughter’s cries to be heard”.
Joan Harnum made the plea during an emotional victim impact statement, which was read to the court by her daughter’s former counsellor, Michelle Richmond.
During a dramatic sentencing hearing, which included a silent protest by Gittany’s family outside court, Ms Harnum described the murder of her daughter as a “senseless and thoughtless act of violence”.
“Lisa’s death has caused a cry around the world to stop violence against women,” Ms Harnum said in the statement.
“Her death and the white ribbon campaign are part of a campaign to stop this violence.
“No one has the right to control another person’s life so intensively that they no longer have the right to go outside. No one has the right to treat someone the way Lisa was.
“To all those men who put women in a position of control and confinement, you have to think about your actions. Your act of violence not only changes the life of your victim but it changes your own life.
“All of those victims need a voice and desperately need your help. Speak out and take action … Mothers, sisters, daughters and granddaughters deserve to live their lives without violence in any form. Please help. Stop the unimaginable pain and loss of another beautiful young woman.”
Before the hearing began, Gittany’s family and friends marched into the Darlinghurst Supreme Court complex bearing placards proclaiming his innocence.
The silent protest was led by Gittany’s girlfriend, Rachelle Louise.
The family made no comment as they walked in.
“How do you render some 1 unconscious in less than 65 secs without any trauma on the body?” read one placard.
“Why was Lisa still holding her handbag and how if she was unconscious?” said another.
Another sign listed famous people who had been convicted of murder only to have the decision overturned on appeal, including Lindy Chamberlain, Gordon Wood, Andrew Mallard and Roseanne Catt.
Gittany entered the dock in a white shirt and black suit and turned to the public gallery where he waved at a number of people.
He smiled at Ms Louise, who stood up and leaned forward so she could whisper a few words to him.
The pair shared a conversation for a few seconds before Justice Lucy McCallum entered the court.
The sentencing hearing, before Justice Lucy McCallum, continues.