Australians all want to know: How did Lisa Harnum die?

'Insanely jealous' boyfriend denies throwing his girlfriend from 15th-floor apartment balcony


"Help me! God help me!" A minute after screaming those words, Lisa Harnum plummeted to her death from the balcony of a 15th-floor luxury Sydney apartment. But did the former ballerina fall – or was she thrown by her boyfriend, a man so "insanely jealous" he bought a computer programme to spy on her text messages and installed hidden cameras in their home?

For the past month, Australians have been gripped by Simon Gittany's murder trial, unfolding in the New South Wales Supreme Court. The clean-cut 40-year-old – accompanied to court every day by a stunning brunette the spitting image of his dead ex – does not deny being "controlling, intimidating [and] abusive". But he rejects the accusation that he killed Ms Harnum in "a fit of apoplectic rage" in July 2011 after finding out she was planning to leave him.

Last week, state prosecutors wrapped up their case, after painting a picture of a man who sought to control every aspect of Canadian-born Ms Harnum's life. Mr Gittany forced her to quit her hairdressing job, the court heard, alienated her from her friends, and allowed her to leave their flat only to buy groceries. He also instructed her never to look at another man, since "your eyes should only gaze on me, the one", he told her.

A pinhole camera which he installed in the corridor outside their flat, in an upmarket city centre block, recorded a struggle during which Ms Harnum hammered on a neighbour's door, screaming for help. Mr Gittany then dragged her back inside, hand over her mouth. Soon afterwards, the neighbour heard "a single, bone-chilling scream" – and a passer-by saw a man "unload" a black object off the balcony.

The defendant told the judge-only trial that the 30-year-old Ms Harnum climbed over the balcony after he told her to pack her bags following a row. She fell on to the awning of the apartment below, he said, and as he leant over, trying desperately to grab her and haul her back to safety, she lost her footing and fell. "I screamed out her name in despair," he recalled.

On trial: Simon Gittany and his current girlfriend On trial: Simon Gittany and his current girlfriend A succession of witnesses told Justice Lucy McCallum about a relationship that Mr Gittany agreed was "dysfunctional". According to Ms Harnum's mother, Joan, who travelled from Canada for the trial, the defendant would make her daughter kneel in front of him and "swear she would do as she was told".

In their last phone call, the day before she died, Ms Harnum confided in her mother that she was "very afraid", and begged her to "come over and help me", the court heard.

It also heard testimony from Ms Harnum's personal trainer, Lisa Brown, whom Gittany hired to train with her at their home, because he feared that men would look at her in the gym.

Ms Harnum confided in her counsellor, Michelle Redmond, that the relationship had reduced her to "a mere shell of a person", isolated and friendless. Ms Redmond claimed that Mr Gittany, who had found out she was helping his girlfriend to move out her possessions, phoned her a few days before Ms Harnum's death and warned her never to contact her again.

Mr Gittany depicted his ex as a vulnerable woman who on several occasions had "jumped out of moving cars", and once ran into the middle of a traffic-choked Sydney street. After one such incident, he said, she told him: "When I'm upset, I genuinely don't know what I'm doing."

The senior Crown prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi QC, cast doubt on his version of events, noting that Ms Harnum had left no fingerprints on the balcony, and that she was clutching her handbag when she died.

The defendant had conducted "the most intense surveillance of his partner that one could possibly imagine," Mr Tedeschi told the court, adding: "He was not satisfied with her having even the tiniest part of her life that he didn't know about or control."

Mr Gittany admitted installing the secret cameras, to keep an eye on tradesmen and his cleaner. A verdict is expected in the next fortnight.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home