New witness says killer talked of staging death

By Kathy Marks

Simon Gittany with his new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise. Photo / Daily Telegraph
Simon Gittany with his new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise. Photo / Daily Telegraph

Simon Gittany, who threw his girlfriend off a 15th-floor balcony in a fit of jealous rage, will be be sentenced next week, after a hearing that featured dramatic new testimony and a bizarre protest staged by his new girlfriend outside court.

Gittany was convicted late last year of murdering his fiancee, Lisa Cecilia Harnum, after he learned she was planning to leave him and return to her native Canada.

The trial heard that the 40-year-old installed hidden cameras in their Sydney apartment, spied on Harnum's text messages and made her quit her job and stop seeing her friends.

Gittany claimed she jumped off the balcony. During a two-day sentencing hearing which ended yesterday, the Crown produced a new witness, who testified that before she died he had repeatedly threatened to kill her and "make it look like suicide".

The woman, who asked not to be named but attended a hair and beauty college with Harnum, 30, said her friend had been afraid that Gittany would poison her food.

The witness contacted police only after the prosecution closed its case, she told Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court, because she had thought there would be "ample" evidence without hers. While the Crown prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, painted Gittany as a "cold" and "calculated" killer who deserved to be locked up for life, his new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise, called him "the best boyfriend I've ever had".

As well as giving him a glowing character reference, the 24-year-old model led a demonstration outside court, where she, with some of his family and friends, brandished placards proclaiming his innocence and comparing him to, among others, Lindy Chamberlain.

Gittany, who claimed during the trial that Harnum had been emotionally unstable, is expected to be sentenced next Tuesday, although Justice Lucy McCallum said she would confirm the date this morning.

Tedeschi asked that he serve the statutory non-parole period of 20 years, as he had shown a complete lack of remorse. His defence barrister, Philip Strickland, said he came from a good family and was unlikely to reoffend.

Strickland accused the new witness of fabricating her evidence, and asked McCallum not to take it into account, as it came "way too late".

Taking the stand for a second time, Gittany insisted he was innocent. "It is a tough thing to deal with," he said. "I am charged [sic] with a crime I did not commit. It is a cross almost too unbearable to bear."

- NZ Herald

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