Just before dawn on Saturday July 30, 2011, Lisa Harnum moved quietly into the marble covered bathroom of her luxury Sydney apartment, picked up the house phone and called her mother Joan in Toronto, Canada. The terrified young woman, in a controlled panic, said she was preparing to leave her fiancé, Simon Gittany, an emotionally abusive and controlling man who was lurking on the other side of the door.
She whispered that if anything was to happen to her, her mother should contact Michelle Richmond, the life coach in whom she had been confiding for the previous three weeks.
This was the last time Joan Harnum spoke to her only daughter. A little over four hours later, Simon Gittany picked up his fiancée and dropped her from the balcony of the apartment they shared on the 15th floor of Sydney’s fashionable apartment block The Hyde.
Before she even knew that Simon Gittany was monitoring her emails and text messages in the weeks before her death, Lisa had confided in the only two women in Sydney that her controlling fiancé allowed her access to outside of his family: her personal trainer, Lisa Brown, and Michelle Richmond. She told them that Simon had cut her off from her friends, dictated what she wore, where she went and to whom she spoke.
Simon Gittany’s threats during the couple’s regular explosive arguments included that he had the power to have Lisa’s visa cancelled and have her deported, destroying her dream of making a life in Australia. Her life coach told Lisa what support services were available and what her legal rights were and the safest way to leave. With the help of her personal trainer, Lisa secretly began removing some of her things from the apartment. Simon Gittany somehow found out.
But tucked into the pocket of the jeans Lisa was wearing on the morning of her murder was a crumpled note that had been torn into little pieces. When police put it together, they found a chilling message: “There are surveillance cameras inside and outside the house.”
Simon Gittany’s claim that his unstable girlfriend had committed suicide was about to unravel. Criminal records would reveal that he was a violent, vengeful man and a cocaine dealer who once spent time in prison for biting off part of a policeman's ear. It also came to light that he was the target of a police investigation into his business dealings with two convicted methylamphetamine dealers who ran a secret drug laboratory in Sydney. Of much more significance was a witness who came forward claiming to have seen Gittany drop Lisa from his apartment window.
Today, in Fallen, we are covering a case of domestic violence which ended in murder. Each time we talk about a case like this, we have to consider how the murder, which could have been predicted, could have been prevented. We’ll talk about the life of Lisa Harnum and what brought her into the relationship with the man who killed her.