CONVICTED balcony killer Simon Gittany will spend at least 18 years behind bars.
Sentencing the 40-year-old to a maximum 26 years in the NSW Supreme Court today, Justice Lucy McCallum said Gittany showed no prospect of rehabilitating from the 2011 murder of his fiancee Lisa Harnum, who the judge said must have felt “complete terror” in the last moments of her life.
Gittany had pleaded not guilty to throwing Ms Harnum, 30, from the 15th storey balcony of their CBD apartment.
During the highly-publicised trial, the court heard Gittany was a jealous and possessive partner who had installed pinhole cameras in the apartment to monitor his fiancee. Ms Harnum was being subjected to “a degree of scrutiny and direction from him that was overbearing”, Justice McCallum said.
On the morning of July 30 2011, Ms Harnum was trying to leave her “controlling, dominating and abusive” partner, who, in a fit of rage, “carried her over to the balcony and dropped her over”. She plunged 15 storeys to her death.
“There is no doubt in my mind that [Gittany] … lost control of his temper,” Justice McCallum told the court.
Gittany always maintained his innocence, claiming Ms Harnum, who suffered from an eating disorder, climbed over the balustrade and slipped. The judge rejected this, saying she did not think Ms Harnum was deranged enough to commit suicide. She added that no traces of her fingerprints were found on the balcony. “Ms Harnum could not have done what the accused says she did without touching the glass panel of the balcony,” she said.
Gittany’s current girlfriend, Rachelle Louise, who supported him throughout the trial, was not in court for the sentencing, after signing a six-figure deal with the Seven Network for an exclusive interview.
One of Gittany’s relatives shouted, “In the name of Jesus Christ, he won’t be doing any of that time” as the sentence was handed down.
“Off the balcony you go,” a member of the public gallery shouted as Gittany was taken away from the dock.
Outside court, Gittany’s sisters lashed out at reporters, calling the media “vultures”.
Gittany’s solicitor, Abigail Bannister, said there would be an appeal.
With time already served in custody, Gittany will be eligible for release in May 2031.
Friday, February 7, 2014. Videos: Evan Zlatkis
Simon Gittany was today found guilty of murdering his fiancee, Lisa Harnum.
Ms Harnum, 30, plunged to her death from Gittany’s 15th-floor apartment on July 30, 2011.
Justice Lucy McCallum told the NSW Supreme Court she was confident “to the point of actual persuasion” that Gittany, then 39, “carried her over to the balcony and then dropped her over” in a fit of rage. She found Ms Harnum was trying to leave the accused on the morning of her death and he stopped her with “an act of serious aggression”.
“There is no doubt in my mind that [Gittany] was in a state of rage at that point and that he had lost control of his temper,” she said.
She rejected Gittany’s claim that she climbed over the balustrade and slipped. “One would have to be in a completely deranged mental state to climb over that balustrade in order to escape,” Justice McCallum said. “I do not think she was deranged.”
No traces of Ms Harnum’s fingerprints were found on any part of the balcony. “Ms Harnum could not have done what the accused says she did without touching the glass panel of the balcony,” the judge said.
Justice McCallum described Ms Harnum’s death as shocking and tragic, and said she would have been in a state of “absolute fear and despair” the morning she died.
There were emotional scenes in the packed courtroom as the verdict was read out. Gittany’s girlfriend, Rachelle Louise, 24, shouted “You’re wrong, you’re wrong!” before leaving the court screaming. An ambulance was called for Gittany’s mother, who had severe shock.
Outside court Lisa’s mother, Joan, said there were no winners in the case. “Two families have had their lives dramatically changed forever,” she told reporters. “We will always mourn the loss of our beautiful Lisa Cecilia and are working towards making her legacy a powerful wake up call to young women and to parents, siblings and friends … to be aware of the warning signs of a controlling relationship and take a proactive approach to assisting them.”
Ms Harnum thanked the judge, crown prosecutor and police for their hard work and dedication.
“It was a fair trial and the judge had a very difficult decision to make,” she said. “I respect her judgement and conclusion.
“My daughter’s favourite saying was ‘families are forever’. Please go home and hug your kids … and make it families forever for everyone.”
Gittany will remain in custody until he returns to court on February 5 for submissions on sentencing. He is not be eligible for a discount on his sentence. – Report and photo by Evan Zlatkis
Anti-violence groups are outraged by the sentence handed to Thomas Kelly’s killer.
Kieran Loveridge, 19, was sentenced on Friday to a non-parole period of four years for Kelly’s manslaughter, with a maximum of six years.
The government reacted belatedly, announcing it would introduce a “one-punch” law that would see offenders locked up for as much as 20 years.
Under the proposed new law, offenders would be charged with assault causing death, rather than manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Kelly was 18 when he was kinghit by Loveridge in a drunken, unprovoked attack at Kings Cross in July 2012.
Ken Marslew, from the Enough is Enough Anti-Violence Movement, said the sentence handed down by Justice Stephen Campbell was ridiculous.
“What are we as a community prepared to accept as justice?” he asked. “Surely not this.”
People have taken to social media and talkback radio to vent their anger, with comments ranging from abuse of the offender to calls for tougher sentencing.
“There are people incarcerated for longer times for robbery and theft than this guy gets for taking an innocent life. No provocation or argument, just walking down the street and his life is over,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
“This is totally disgusting and so unfair. Bastard!” another wrote on Twitter.
Loveridge was originally charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The NSW maximum for manslaughter of 25 years has never been given; everyone convicted received less than 10 years’ imprisonment.
To satisfy a murder offence, there must be an intention to murder. Justice Campbell found Loveridge was “very drunk” the night he punched Kelly and said the attack was spontaneous and unpremeditated.
The Kellys argue that manslaughter is the “catch-all” offence for every death that doesn’t satisfy the elements of a murder offence. Thomas’s mother, Kathy, said she was horrified by the four-year sentence, which she described as “an absolute joke”.
Speaking on the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program, Mrs Kelly and her husband Ralph said they had been let down by the legal system.
“There hasn’t been a night that I haven’t gone to sleep in tears,” Mrs Kelly said. “You don’t think that you have to fight the legal system to find justice.”
She told the media she had not seen the details of the proposed law, but she believed the public wanted change.
The Kellys have started an online petition asking the state government to introduce an offence that “deals specifically with the death of a person as a result of a violent act but does not reach the necessary threshold to establish murder”.
“We believe there has to be an ‘in between’ area between accidental death that occurs in tragic circumstances and the offence of ‘murder’, with minimum sentences being applied,” they said.
The Kellys believe it is only a matter of time before the next person was killed by a kinghit, and they want to spare other families from the same fate.
Ken Marslew is organising a rally to be held next week in protest against the sentence. The public is invited to attend at Martin Place (top level) at noon on Tuesday, November 19. – Evan Zlatkis
A MAN who fatally king-hit Sydney teenager Thomas Kelly will spend just four years in jail.
Sentencing Kieran Loveridge in the NSW Supreme Court today for the 18-year-old’s manslaughter and for four other assaults, Justice Stephen Campbell said he had expressed remorse and was “very unlikely” to reoffend.
In June, Loveridge, 19, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting four others in Kings Cross that same night. Justice Campbell sentenced Loveridge to five to seven years for the four assaults, but a 25 per cent reduction was applied for entering early pleas.
Kelly was walking through Sydney’s notorious Kings Cross nightclub district on a night out with his girlfriend on July 7, 2012, when he was punched in an unprovoked attack. His injuries were so severe his family had to approve removal of life support in hospital two days later.
Justice Campbell said the attack was spontaneous and unpremeditated, by an offender who was “very drunk”.
“Thomas must have been a wonderful young man full of promise for the future,” Justice Campbell told the packed courtroom, which included Kelly’s family and supporters of Loveridge. “He had no reason to be on the lookout for trouble. He was entirely unsuspecting of any danger.”
The court heard Loveridge had told a friend the night he hit Kelly, “I swear I am going to bash someone tonight.”
When he saw a news report about the bashing the next day he asked, “Was that one of my fights? I don’t know.”
Outside court an emotional Kathy Kelly, Thomas’s mother, said she was horrified by the sentence.
“It’s a joke; an absolute joke,” she told reporters. “[Thomas] was young, honest and at the brink of starting his life, and he’s gone. The next person could be your son. How many of our children have to die before somebody does something to change these laws, to make people accountable for what they do?”
Mrs Kelly said the sentence was a slap on the wrist and will “never be enough, no matter what he got”.
Ralph Kelly said he was shocked beyond disbelief at the lenient sentence. He said it was time the state government did something about alcohol-fuelled violence “to make us all safe” or such attacks would continue.
“[Thomas] died for absolutely no reason,” he said. “In Sydney we should be able to walk down the street without fear of violent attacks.”
The court heard Loveridge had a criminal record as a juvenile and was on probation at the time of the attacks. With time already served in custody, he will be eligible for parole in November 2017.
Attorney-General Greg Smith has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mark Tedeschi, to consider appealing against the leniency of the sentence. – Evan Zlatkis
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Pictures: Evan Zlatkis
There were dramatic scenes in Sydney’s east last night, as a fire broke out in a North Bondi rooftop and quickly spread to three neighbouring homes.
Firefighters were inundated with calls to the house on Hastings Parade before 11pm.
Resident Tom Braybrook, who could see the flames from his balcony, said about eight fire trucks had arrived on the scene.
Grace Howden said the whole street had been blocked off, with “fire, police and ambulance [crews] everywhere.”
Kate Fitzpatrick saw “tons of smoke” and said a crane had been brought in to extinguish the blaze, which had spread “extremely quickly”, Luke Middlebrook said.
No one was hurt in the fire. The total cost of the damage is still unknown.