Accused: Simon Gittany outside the Supreme Court. Photo: James Brickwood ‘She felt that she was a shell of her previous self’: Lisa Harnum’s counsellor Michelle Richmond. Photo: James Brickwood
The experienced counsellor had ”never heard anyone so enraged and out of control”, she told the court. Two days before Simon Gittany allegedly dropped his fiancee off their 15th floor balcony, the Sydney man allegedly rang the woman’s counsellor, Michelle Richmond, declaring ”I’ll f—ing harm you”.
”He sounded like someone who was insane,” Ms Richmond told Mr Gittany’s murder trial on Wednesday. ”It was just a monologue of abuse.” The court heard that in the weeks before her death in July 2011, Canadian Lisa Cecilia Harnum told Ms Richmond that she was scared of her fiance and had been completely isolated by him, but didn’t feel she could leave.
”He had said if she left him, she would be deported … that she would leave with nothing, just as she had come, even her underwear,” Ms Richmond said.
She said that Ms Harnum felt so ground down by Mr Gittany that the only way to connect with herself was through an eating disorder. ”She felt that she was a shell of her previous self. She had to be so particular about what she had to say around Simon. She said the bulimia gave her some sense of self and some sense of feeling.”
The court heard that in the week leading up to her death, Ms Richmond had been giving Ms Harnum advice about how to leave Mr Gittany, and had taken a pillow case full of the woman’s clothes in preparation.
But Ms Richmond said that a couple of days later, on July 28, she received a call from Ms Harnum’s phone with silence on the other end of the line.
”I recognised Cecilia’s number and rang back … but I pretended that I didn’t know who it was,” Ms Richmond told the court.
The call was answered by Mr Gittany. ”He said ‘Michelle, you f—ing bitch, if you ever come in contact with Cecilia again … I know where you live, I’ll f—ing harm you.’ ”
Ms Richmond said the next morning she received a text message from Ms Harnum’s phone accusing her of ruining the couple’s relationship. ”It said ‘leave me alone … drop all my stuff off at the concierge no later than 10am tomorrow,’ ” Ms Richmond said.
” ‘I wish I never met you because you ruined my life. I had everything with Simon but you brainwashed me. Simon threw me out on the street with nothing.’ ”
The counsellor said that she dropped Ms Harnum’s clothes back that day.
”I felt that Cecilia had made her decision and it was best to follow the request in the text,” she said.
Less than 24 hours later, the young woman was dead.
But counsel for Mr Gittany, Phillip Strickland, SC, suggested his client had never made any threat. ”I want to suggest that he did not utter any threat, he didn’t say ‘I know where you f—ing live’ or call you a f—ing bitch or anything like that,” he said.
”I remember that night very well,” the counsellor replied.
This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.