'Deranged scream' heard before woman pushed off balcony

Simon Gittany allegedly 'unloaded' his fiancee off the balcony of their high-rise apartment in Sydney, when she fell to her death. Photo / Thinkstock
Simon Gittany allegedly 'unloaded' his fiancee off the balcony of their high-rise apartment in Sydney, when she fell to her death. Photo / Thinkstock

A man accused of murdering his fiancee by throwing her off their apartment balcony told police he tried to stop her from falling after she got onto the railing, a Sydney court has heard.

But a witness told Simon Gittany's committal hearing in the Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday he heard a man he believed to be Gittany screaming in a "deranged" manner before seeing him throw what the witness later realised was a woman off the balcony.

Gittany, 39, has pleaded not guilty to murdering his fiancee, Lisa Harnum, 30, by pushing her off the balcony of their apartment in Sydney's CBD on July 30, 2011.

Giving evidence via video link, Joshua Rathmell said he was on his way to work when he heard screams coming from The Hyde apartment building.

"The best words I could use to describe it are emotional and deranged," Mr Rathmell said.

"I believed it to be a male voice ... it was deranged, incomprehensible."

Mr Rathmell said he thought the screams were coming from "a junkie on an ice bender".

He said he looked up at the apartment building and saw a bare-chested man standing on a balcony "unload" what he initially thought was a piece of luggage or a black duffel bag.

"I saw him in quite a rapid movement unload (it) off the edge of the balcony and then push himself back in immediately," he said.

"He went straight back inside the apartment almost in one swift movement ... He certainly wasn't watching the object."

As Mr Rathmell walked on down the street, he saw people trying to resuscitate a woman.

"I came to the conclusion it was not a black bag, but in fact a human being," he told the court.

Mr Rathmell said he then saw the man from the balcony emerge and kneel beside the woman.

"He was openly mourning, very shocked," Mr Rathmell said, adding, "He fitted the physical nature of the man I had perceived on the balcony."

Under cross-examination from defence barrister Anthony Bellanto, QC, Mr Rathmell agreed he had initially told police he saw a man unload what he thought was a bag of rubbish from a window and that it was "hard to focus" on the incident, which occurred in a matter of seconds.

An initial police report about Mr Rathmell's observations also recorded him as saying he did not see Ms Harnum being pushed or jumping, but saw her falling.

"Given the extremely short time frame and the distance you were away, you would agree that there may well be some doubt about the accuracy of your observations?" Mr Bellanto asked.

"Absolutely," Mr Rathmell replied.

The court heard Gittany told police that he had tried to grab Ms Harnum before she fell off the balcony.

"She just walked out on the balcony and got on the rail," Gittany said according to police statements.

"I said, 'What are you doing?' I tried to grab her, but I couldn't get hold of her."

Immediately after the incident, Gittany kept saying, "baby, baby, baby" and "Why would she do this?" the court heard.

Mr Bellanto said Gittany also told police about a video camera in his unit and told them, "I hope it's working".

Gittany was arrested after police viewed the footage, which showed Gittany grabbing Ms Harnum around the neck and mouth and dragging her back inside the apartment 68 seconds before she died.

The hearing continues before Magistrate Clare Farnan.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 11 Jul 2014 17:36:59 Processing Time: 324ms