Hours before Lisa Harnum was thrown from the balcony of her luxury Sydney apartment, she made a chilling phone call to her mum in Canada.
In her last few days alive, Lisa Cecilia Harnum believed she could survive and get away, free from the control of her boyfriend Simon Gittany.
The attractive 30-year-old ballerina was more than 15,000km from her home in Canada and had succumbed to his expanding domination over her life.
The clock was ticking towards Saturday, July 30, 2011, but still she thought she could escape with her life.
In fact, Harnum was well into the “danger time”, the period when a woman in a relationship with a controlling man is at a high risk of violence or death.
And as it turned out, she was virtually locked up in a tower, which she was only allowed to leave to buy groceries.
Isolated in the luxury apartment on the 15th floor of the exclusive Sydney CBD block overlooking the park, called The Hyde, Harnum had just discovered Gittany’s secret.
After regulating or cutting off her physical contact with almost any other human being, her fiance of just six weeks was now monitoring her every electronic movement.
On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
Almost 10 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries at the hands of a spouse or domestic partner.
Every day in May, as part of Domestic and Family Violence Awareness Month, news.com.au will tell the stories behind those shocking statistics.
Harnum was being cyber-stalked by her future husband via MobiStealth phone spyware, intended to track her and then punish her if she transgressed.
Surveillance cameras he installed in the apartment watched her physical movement.
In the early hours of Saturday, July 30, 2011, with a bag packed, Lisa Harnum ducked into the bathroom of the apartment she shared with Gittany and called her mother.
She was panicked, warning Joan Harnum in Scarborough, Canada, to contact her Australian friend Michelle Hammond if anything happened.
But, she said, “I’ll call and talk to you … as soon as I can. However I can.”
Joan Harnum would never receive that call.
At the time, although both women knew Simon Gittany was a control freak, they didn’t know to what extent he’d go.
But by then his relationship with Lisa had traversed all the classic stages of coercive control to the end game – the danger time.
The charm phase
Lisa Harnum was introduced to Simon Gittany via an older man she had been dating in 2009, after arriving in Australia in 2005, initially on a 12-month working visa.
Lisa was working at the salon, Australian Hair & Beauty at Bondi Junction in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
At first, Joan Harnum would later say, Lisa thought Gittany was gay and in early 2010 she accepted an invitation to occupy his spare room “until she found something”.
But two months later, they became romantically involved, with Lisa telling her mother they got on well, although not saying she was “in love”.
As domestic violence counsellors tell the victims of controlling relationships, the signs are there but the obsessive narcissist can initially seem charming.
His need to know where you are every moment of the day may seem flattering, at first.
As his obsession develops and intensifies, it seems as if he is just falling very much in love with you.
The control begins
Control can begin with something as seemingly harmless as his suggestion the two of you get a joint bank account.
Then he will start checking every statement to see where you have been going and sending multiple daily texts.
If he sends you more than a dozen texts each day, or 20 to 30, that is unhealthy, especially if this manifests itself in his asking where you are and who you are with.
Shortly before Harnum’s 29th birthday, in June 2010, Gittany urged her to quit her job at the hairdressing salon, saying she should be looking for “a better class of people”.
The shoe importer, who wore expensive suits, aspired to a flashy lifestyle and pretended to be part of Sydney’s upwardly mobile set.
In reality, he was a thug who had been convicted of receiving stolen goods, and two violent attacks, including a malicious wounding.
Unbeknown to Lisa Harnum, she was living with a man who had been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for biting off part of a policeman’s ear.
After convincing a sentencing judge that he had repented and planned to become a Catholic, Gittany left for France but returned having abandoned his novitiate.
It was in 2001, and after his return Gittany was caught with 55 ecstasy tablets and $5200 cash. But Gittany buried his past and in 2010, Lisa Harnum knew none of this.
She agreed to leave her salon to seek a more suitable work environment away from people who were “polluting her mind”.
Gittany’s insistence was a classic sabotage tactic of the controlling man to hurry up the next phase, isolation.
The isolation phase
The controller will start on the destruction of your social network, including seeing your family, sabotaging plans by pretending he is “sick” and needs you home to care for him.
Or if friends come over, he may be moody or unfriendly, or get angry and start a fight.
When you are alone, he will start chipping away at the characters of your mates.
After a while, friends will stop coming by.
Lisa Harnum was the perfect candidate, having fewer friends or a family support network in a foreign country.
Gittany hacked into her email account and deleted any messages from men and began removing friends from her Facebook account.
He told Lisa he didn’t want to go to clubs because men paid Lisa too much attention.
By September 2010, when he signed a lease on The Hyde apartment, Lisa texted her mother, “I miss my family and friends so much, I have no life.”
Gittany now dictated where she went, who she talked to and what she wore.
Gittany himself would later admit at trial he “advised” Lisa, who he called Cecilia, what to wear and that he had been a “jealous” partner.
“Cecilia was obviously very beautiful,” he told the trial. “She would wear revealing clothes, sometimes with no bra.
“I would tell her she should continue to look beautiful but just to tone down how much she was revealing of her body so she didn’t attract the wrong sort of attention and give out the wrong signals.”
In fact, Gittany dictated Harnum wear a kind of uniform, monochromatic pants and jackets, flat shoes, no cleavage showing and her long hair tied back.
Text messages tendered to court showed Gittany blasting Ms Harnum for “walking around like a peacock with your hair out”.
Harnum, who struggled with an eating disorder from her days as a teenage dancer, was promised by Gittany an airfare home to Canada if she got her weight up.
Harnum’s texts to her mother said “I think I love this guy”, but also that he was suffocating and abusive.
By December 2010, Harnum was subject to scrutiny and direction from Gittany that was “overbearing”, his trial would later conclude.
One of Gittany’s texts later tendered in court said, “Please don’t look at any guy as your eyes should only gaze on me, the one.”
Another text said “who the f**k do you think you are walking around the house like you own it or coming and going without my permission”.
Part of control is denigration and partners start a calculated campaign of “belittling … to plant the seed of doubt and the wear down her self esteem”.
When it escalates to a fight, a “honeymoon period” will follow with flowers and an apology saying something like, “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, I will change, give me another chance.”
Then the abuse or violence will escalate again.
Gittany wore down Harnum’s self esteem by not allowing her to wear flattering or revealing clothes.
Eternally jealous, he told her she was a tramp if she did and stopped her working out in a public gym because of the male attention.
In June 2011, on her 30th birthday, Gittany proposed to Harnum in front of the cameras at a large gathering in a restaurant, filled with his friends and family, but none of hers.
He told the room he had found someone to “serve” him.
According to one of her few contacts in Australia, Michelle Richmond, Harnum “was still making excuses for him … still struggling within herself. She wanted the fairytale.”
Nevertheless, Harnum was also defiant and they had regular arguments over his control. Gittany would dangle the threat he could get her visa cancelled and have her deported.
When she wanted to start planning their wedding, Gittany refused, saying: “I’ll let you know when we’re going to start planning it. Until then, shut up.”
In the six weeks between their engagement and July 30, 2011, Harnum’s grasp of her situation manifested itself in a bid to regain control: her bulimia returned in earnest.
She reached out to her personal trainer, Lisa Brown and Richmond, a counsellor.
Harnum told them how Gittany had cut her off from family and friends and dictated her clothes and her movements.
Every aspect of her life was already under Gittany’s direction.
Richmond advised her on the support available and what her legal rights were when she left him.
With Brown’s encouragement, she packed some bags of clothes and gave them to the personal trainer to mind.
Gittany had become aware of Harnum’s plans by secretly reading her SMS messages and confronted her, implying he knew because Brown had betrayed her trust.
Gittany rang Richmond and abused and threatened her.
In a fury, he made Harnum kneel before him, screaming at her that she must do as she was told.
On the evening of Friday, July 29, 2011, Lisa Harnum secretly called and told her mother she needed her in Sydney, Joan agreeing to get leave from her employer.
When Gittany made it known he was aware of the phone call, the penny dropped for Harnum.
The supposed love of her life knew her every call, text message, email, and planned airline bookings.
Via a software program he’d installed on his computer, he had her under constant surveillance.
There was no time to wait for her mother to get on a plane, it was time to get out.
Lisa Harnum was fair and square in the danger time.
In this risky period, obsessive, volatile men can harm their partner, their children, their pet, and anyone or thing they love.
It is for this reason, domestic violence advocates advise, keep plans to leave him a secret.
That is obviously more difficult if the man is surveilling you via a program like MobiStealth, which promises “total vigilance” against the dangers a woman can face from a stalker.
For women, the danger time with an ex-partner can last for 12 months or more as he festers with rage and loss of control over what he regards his “possessions”, his wife and children.
Lisa Harnum could not have realised Simon Gittany would never simply let her walk away.
Overnight on Friday, Harnum packed her belongings ready to leave in the morning.
As she made her last call to her mother, radiating both fear and reassurance, in her jeans pocket was a note Harnum had written and then torn into pieces.
It read: “There are surveillance cameras inside and outside the house.”
When she emerged from the bathroom, Gittany tried to discuss their situation, but Harnum told him, she was leaving.
Shortly before 10am, Harnum took her handbag, without her passport, and was exiting the apartment, heading into the corridor towards the lift.
‘God help me’
Gittany grabbed her, physically restraining her by placing his hand over her mouth and dragged her back into the apartment.
CCTV captured the moment, and Harnum banged on the door of the neighbouring apartment, screaming, “Please help me … God help me”.
Sixty-nine seconds after Gittany forced her back inside, Lisa Harnum, still clutching her handbag, fell to her death from the 15th floor balcony.
Below in Hyde Park, Joshua Rathmell was walking to work when he heard a noise he thought was the “deranged” screams of a “junkie on an ice bender”.
He saw a shirtless man on the 15th floor balcony above him throwing off what he initially thought was black luggage.
He did not see the object hit the ground, but did go over to Liverpool Street to see a crowd of people apparently trying to resuscitate a body.
He also saw a man exit the building, and believed him to be the same man he had seen throw the object from the balcony.
Over in Canada, Joan Harnum had repeatedly tried to contact her daughter following their last conversation, calling and texting her.
Around ten hours after that final call, Joan’s phone did ring. It was the Toronto police, and they were outside Joan’s apartment.
Joan met them in her hallway. “He killed her,” she cried, “He killed her.”
Gittany on trial with a new girlfriend
Simon Gittany told police Lisa Harnum had jumped off the balcony because she was depressed.
Police charged him with her murder and he was remanded in custody, but granted bail in January 2012.
He pleaded not guilty and in 2013 was granted a judge-only trial after saying he had run out of money for his defence.
The trial eventually proceeded in late 2013, before Justice Lucy McCallum in the NSW Supreme Court.
Joan Harnum gave evidence how she had told her daughter the night before her death to “grab her passport and purse and just get out”.
Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, told the trial Gittany’s version of events was implausible.
Tedeschi said the fact Harnum had her handbag was consistent with being dragged from her attempt flight into the corridor and pitched over the balcony.
The trial excluded evidence from a witness who said Harnum had once told her that Gittany said he would kill her if she left him, and that he would make it look like suicide.
Each day, Gittany attended his trial in the company of his new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise Welcome.
On November 13, 2015, just before closing addresses by counsel and two weeks before delivering her judgment, Justice McCallum revoked Gittany’s bail.
Ms Welcome cried out and Gittany’s sisters appeared shattered.
As Justice McCallum noted, for a murder accused to remain on bail at this stage of a trial, “exceptional circumstances” would have to exist.
On Wednesday, November 27, 2013, Justice McCallum found Gittany, 40, guilty of murdering Harnum in an “uncontrollable rage”.
She said his evidence had been “unconvincing”, like “a person playing a role”.
Rachelle Louise Welcome yelled “you’re frigg’n wrong” at McCallum and stormed from the courtroom in tears.
Outside the court, Joan Harnum told reporters there were “no winners” and said she hoped to set up support services for the families of domestic violence victims.
Before his 2014 sentencing, Ms Welcome protested her boyfriend’s innocence in a paid Channel 7 interview and led a protest outside Sydney’s Darlinghurst.
Some protest placards questioned evidence, such as why Harnum was holding her handbag when she was murdered.
One listed people who had been convicted, then acquitted, including Lindy Chamberlain and Gordon Wood.
On February 12, 2014 Justice McCallum sentenced Gittany to a minimum 18 years and a maximum 26 years for Lisa Harnum’s murder.
She discounted Ms Welcome’s character reference that Gittany was “the best boyfriend … ever”.
“I do not think any reliable inference as to Mr Gittany’s future conduct can be drawn from his flamboyant relationship with Ms Louise,” she said.
Justice McCallum said Gittany had shown no remorse and had little chance of rehabilitation.
In 2016, Gittany lost an appeal in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal against his conviction.
The Lisa Harnum Foundation currently operates with a mission to help “all families live in safety, free from fear, free from domestic violence”.
The Foundation provides support “and empowers families affected by domestic violence while striving to prevent and end the cycle of abuse through education and social change”.