Cheers at fiancee-killer's sentence

EMMA PARTRIDGE, PAUL BIBBY
Last updated 13:51 11/02/2014
Gittany
LISA HARNUM: Thrown to her death.
Gittany
Fairfax
SIMON GITTANY: Guilty of murdering his fiancee, Lisa Harnum.

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Simon Gittany has been jailed for a minimum of 18 years with a maximum of 26 years for killing his fiancee Lisa Harnum by throwing her off a Sydney high rise in 2011.

After hearing he would spend a maximum of 26 years in jail, Gittany stared straight ahead and his head dropped.

He did not look or speak to his family and was escorted out of the courtroom in silence by Corrective Services officers.

After Justice Judy McCallum handed down the sentence the NSW Supreme Court today, one of Gittany's sisters stood up and declared: "In the name of Jesus Christ, he won't be doing any of that time."

She was removed from the courtroom.

A woman in the public balcony whooped loudly in apparent celebration. As Gittany was being taken down, the same woman shouted: "Off the balcony you go."

In November last year, Gittany, 40, was found guilty of murder by throwing Harnum, 31, from the 15th floor of their luxury inner-city apartment block, in what the judge described as a "fit of rage".

Justice McCallum told the court she did not believe the murder had been premeditated or planned.

"The intention to kill was formed suddenly and in a state of rage," she said.

She did not believe Gittany had planned to kill Harnum until the day of her death.

Justice McCallum said the offence was of sufficient seriousness that the standard non-parole period of 20 years would provide "a strong guide".

Justice McCallum said she did not believe Gittany had suffered from intense media attention because he had invited it.

"He had embraced the attention of the media."

She said Gittany has not attempted to dissuade his partner, Rachelle Louise, from appearing on national television or stopped her from parading in a silent protest outside of court last week.

"He had not attempted to dissuade her from being involved in the protest," she said.

"I do not accept that media attention is not unwanted."

Shortly after beginning her sentencing remarks, Justice McCallum found that Gittany's act of throwing Harnum off the balcony could "only have been done with the intention of killing her".

"Ms Harnum must have been in a state of complete terror in the moments before her death."

The decision will be the culmination of an extraordinary trial and sentencing process, attracting media attention across the globe.

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RACHELLE LOUISE NOT IN COURT

Louise was not in court for his sentencing, amid reports she has signed a deal with Channel Seven to hold her silence.

A Sunday Night reporter had told journalists sitting in court that Louise was not coming to hear how long Gittany would be sentenced to spend behind bars.

Gittany's brother and sister and a few family members waited in the public gallery at 10am with no signs of Louise.

Louise's no-show was a complete contrast to a circus-like protest she held last week.

She and the Gittany clan entered the Supreme Court complex holding a number of placards with points they claimed proved his innocence.

Louise told Channel Seven she knew her boyfriend was innocent.

"I don't make a statement based on something Simon's told me. I have worked through the case completely," she said.

"Simon is an innocent person and someone needs to help him, and that is exactly what I'm doing and I plan on standing by him until justice prevails," she said.

POSSESSIVE RAGE

On the morning of the murder, Gittany grabbed Harnum, a Canadian, by the throat in a possessive rage as she tried to flee and dragged her back inside.

Neighbours say they heard a woman screaming "Please help me! God, help me!" followed by a man's voice and then complete silence.

Gittany had knocked the young woman out, Justice McCallum found.

He then carried her out to the balcony and "unloaded" her over the edge.

This was Harnum's punishment for making one final, desperate attempt to leave her controlling, dominating boyfriend.

For weeks she had been planning to go, leaving bags of clothes with her personal trainer and a counsellor so that Gittany's suspicions would not be aroused, and discussing one-way flights back to Canada with her mother.

When Gittany discovered the plan, he was consumed by rage.

"For all his vigilance, his errant fiancee had found a way to secretly remove her belongings," Justice McCallum said.

Virtually from the start of his relationship with Harnum, Gittany exhibited a burning need to control virtually every aspect of her life - how she dressed, where she went and how she behaved.

When police arrived at the murder scene on the corner of Liverpool and Elizabeth streets, they found a torn-up note in the woman's jeans pocket with the words "there are surveillance cameras inside and outside the house" scrawled in her distinctive handwriting.

This was a reference to the near-constant surveillance Gittany kept his girlfriend under, including monitoring her text messages through a programme he had secretly installed on her phone and a bristle of CCTV cameras monitoring the apartment.

During the sentencing process the Crown prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, QC, described the murder as "cold and calculating", submitting that that it warranted a minimum sentence of 20 years in jail.

The defence argued that the sentence should be "significantly less" than 20 years.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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