Australian man guilty of throwing lover over balcony
27 November 2013, 15:56
Sydney - An Australian man was found guilty on Wednesday of throwing his Canadian girlfriend off the balcony of their high-rise Sydney apartment, ending a murder trial which captivated the nation.
Simon Gittany was accused of hurling his fiancée, former ballerina Lisa Harnum, from their 15th floor home in a fit of rage in July 2011 after discovering she planned to leave him.
The 40-year-old, supported in court by his glamorous new girlfriend, had maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying Harnum, aged 30, had slipped and fallen after climbing over a railing and he had tried to save her.
But Justice Lucy McCallum, who heard the trial without a jury, said the lack of Harnum's fingerprints on the glass barrier made this scenario implausible.
"At many times in his evidence, the accused struck me as being a person playing a role, telling a story which fitted with the objective evidence but which did no more than that," McCallum said, according to Australian Associated Press.
Gittany, who was in custody for the final weeks of the trial, will face a sentencing hearing in February.
McCallum, in a decision delivered over the course of more than four hours, also said witness Josh Rathmell, who had been walking past the apartment building on his way to work when he saw Harnum fall, had given a compelling account.
At the time, Rathmell thought he must have seen Gittany "unload" a piece of luggage or rubbish and continued on his way, only later realising it was a body and contacting police.
McCallum said while Gittany and Harnum had loved each other, there was no doubt the accused was "controlling, dominating and at times abusive".
"I am satisfied by the end of July 2011, those tensions had reached a point of crisis," she said.
'God help me'
The New South Wales Supreme Court heard that Gittany had secretly monitored Harnum's phone and had installed CCTV cameras inside and outside their apartment.
One of these cameras showed Gittany restraining Harnum outside their unit and then dragging her back inside on the night she died. Harnum was heard yelling: "Please help me, help me, God help me."
Gittany's current girlfriend, who attended court with the accused, reportedly screamed that McCallum had got it "wrong" before storming out of the court when the verdict came out.
Harnum's mother said there were no winners and she would always mourn the loss of her daughter whose legacy she hoped would be a powerful wake-up call to young women.
"Young women who are caught up in situations like my daughter found herself in, need a voice," Joan Harnum said.