Harriet Wran goes from penthouse to jail house: The downfall of the Australian heiress who had everything

The daughter of a leading politician has been charged with murdering an alleged drug dealer while reportedly high on drugs and living rough. Kathy Marks reports on a fall from grace that has left a nation reeling in shock


Harriet Wran, the youngest daughter of one of Australia’s most revered politicians, seemed to have it all: wealth, privilege, a private education and well-connected friends.

Today that world came crashing down as the glamorous 26-year-old was charged with murdering an alleged drug dealer in a run-down Sydney council flat. At the time she was reportedly high on a drug known as “ice” and living rough.

Australians reacted with shock and disbelief to the news. In April, Ms Wran – elegant in a black trenchcoat and silver jewellery – had read a Shakespeare sonnet at a state funeral for her father, Neville, a Labor Party stalwart who had been premier of New South Wales for a decade from 1976.

Today, she wore a grey jumpsuit for the trip in a police van to Liverpool local court, in Sydney’s south-western suburbs. The previous evening, after being arrested at Liverpool train station, she had been charged, with her boyfriend, Michael Lee, 35, with murder and attempted murder.

Police allege that the couple, together with a third person, Lloyd Haines, 29, broke into the flat of Daniel McNulty in inner-city Redfern on Sunday night, armed with two knives. After a fight broke out, they allegedly stabbed him and another man, Brett Fitzgerald.

Mr McNulty, 48, who was said to have been a musician, heroin addict and small-time dealer, died at the scene. Mr Fitzgerald, 42, who suffered multiple stab wounds, is in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

According to Australian newspapers, Ms Wran – who stands to inherit a sizeable chunk of her father’s estimated A$40m (£22m) fortune – has long-standing drug problems. Although the family owns a string of properties including a mansion in an exclusive Sydney neighbourhood, she had apparently been living on the streets for weeks.

Fairfax Media reported that she told police she was addicted to ice (methylamphetamine), and that she was “numb on ice”, “terrified” and “desperate” to buy the drug when she accompanied Mr Lee and Mr Haines to Mr McNulty’s flat.

According to a police source quoted by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, a tabloid, “the next thing she knows, they [the two men] were laying into him”.

Neighbours described Mr McNulty as an “affable, friendly” man and a loving father to his nine-year-old daughter. He moved to Sydney from Byron Bay, on the New South Wales north coast, two years ago. One friend said he was struggling to overcome his addiction, and was on a methadone programme.

Winston Terracini, a Sydney barrister engaged by Ms Wran, said outside court that she would be pleading not guilty. She will remain in custody until her next court appearance in October.

Ms Wran, the daughter of Neville Wran and his second wife, Jill Hickson, a publicist and literary agent, was born into an Australian political aristocracy. Her father had shrugged off a working-class upbringing to become a barrister and the longest-serving premier of New South Wales. After quitting politics, he became a successful investment banker.

Brought up in a A$10m house in leafy Woollahra, Ms Wran – a god-daughter of the late media baron Kerry Packer – attended elite private girls’ schools. According to her Facebook page, she has been studying modern and ancient history and philosophy at Sydney University.

An unnamed friend described the murder charge as “beyond comprehension”. That was the sense in the wider community, too. Shock earlier in the week at news of a murder in a down-at-heel but gentrifying neighbourhood turned to disbelief when it emerged that Ms Wran was allegedly implicated.

Another friend, quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald, said that, after dating an architect in her early twenties, Ms Wran had become involved with a member of a motorcycle gang. When arrested, she was reportedly dishevelled and destitute, with no money or credit cards and no belongings.

Mr Wran – who died aged 87, after suffering for a long time with dementia – had two children with his first wife, Marcia Oliver, a former showgirl. He also adopted her young son. He married Ms Hickson in 1976, and the couple had a stormy relationship, separating several times before reconciling in 2011.

After he died in a nursing home, Ms Hickson became embroiled in a battle over his will with Ms Oliver’s daughter, Kim Sheftell. Flying into Sydney airport from Brisbane to support Ms Wran, she asked for privacy, telling reporters: “I can hardly walk, let alone talk.”

As well as the house in Woollahra, the family owns an apartment on Sydney harbour, said to be worth A$10m, and a A$2m farm. Mr Wran’s estate also included his substantial parliamentary pension and the fortune he made as a banker.

Although he was dogged by corruption allegations while in politics, a royal commission cleared him of any wrongdoing in 1983. His funeral was attended by Labor Party luminaries including the former prime minister Paul Keating and Bob Carr, a successor as New South Wales premier. Both delivered eulogies.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam