Eighteen years for taking a young woman’s life.
Sure, the full sentence handed down this morning to Simon Gittany is 26 years. But, more often than not, prisoners are released at the end of their non-parole period.
It’s a petty price to pay for the life of 30-year-old Lisa Harnum.
Despite being described by Justice Lucy McCallum as “arrogant, controlling and manipulative” with “two very different personalities” and showing “no remorse”, Gittany could be out on the streets by the age of 58.
And still strong enough to inflict the same “complete terror” on his new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise, as he did on her doppelganger.
Ms. Louise wasn’t in court for the sentencing, to protect her estimated $150,000 deal with Channel 7’s Sunday Night program.
In the first of a two-part interview, she appears almost brainwashed, blindly proclaiming her lover’s innocence.
According to the comment streams, she’s a “gold-digger” and a “bitch”, who just wants her “15 minutes of fame”. Certainly, it’s easy to cast her a villainess.
The 24-year-old shows little emotion as she sees a photo taken moments before Gittany threw his fiancé off the balcony, in a fit of “apoplectic rage”.
In other snippets, she calls Lisa’s broken finger after a fight “just a fracture”; Gittany’s hand over her mouth as “acting instinctively” because “she kept running away”; and biting a policeman’s ear off as “self-defence”.
If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be laughable.
She displays no sympathy for the victim, controlled, bullied then brutally murdered, or her mother, who has a “hole in her heart that will never heal”.
Or even the counsellor, who was threatened by Gittany: “If you come near Lisa again… I know where you live. I will **###* harm you.”
Her only tears were in the witness box last week, when she described her boyfriend as “caring and romantic” and said she would “stand by him until justice is served”.
Instead of jumping to judgement, what if we watch through a different lens?
Has this young woman been drawn into the cult of Gittany? And could she potentially become his next victim?
Rachelle Louise interview on the Sunday Night program
The evidence of his controlling personality is clear.
In this phone call, Lisa Harnum pleads for her freedom: “I always wait at home for you. Like, I don’t go anywhere. I don’t do anything without your permission, without asking, without you being OK with everything, and I don’t do anything other than what it is you tell me to do. Nothing.”
He installed spyware in their home, told her how to dress, and who she could associate with.
Always, it was accompanied by threats: “We can do this nicely, or we could do it a different way.”
Men like this can be charming, passionate, and exciting to be around: but they can also be deadly, and otherwise independent, capable, intelligent women can be drawn into their web.
I believe this is what has happened to Rachelle Louise.
At one stage, interviewer Ross Coulthart asks, “Has he ever stopped you from leaving the apartment like he did with Lisa?”
“He’s never stopped me like physically restrained me from leaving, but he’s stopped me from leaving, like, stood at the door,” she replies.
This is a woman in deep denial. A woman who refuses to see the evidence. Because she is blinded by love.
At least she will have her freedom for the next 18 years.
Let’s hope she takes heed of the words of Justice McCallum: “There is little prospect for rehabilitation, as Gittany continues to claim he is innocent.”
Sadly, Rachelle Louise is complicit in this deception.
Up to 30 per cent of women worldwide are affected by intimate partner violence. In many cases, they’re still in love. Until their last breath. Then, it’s too late.
What do you think about Justice McCallum’s assertion that “there is little prospect for rehabilitation” in Gittany’s case?
* If you need help in any way call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800 737 732,Lifeline on 131114, or the police on 000.