Simon Gittany jailed until 2031

The Gittany family outside court. Picture: Evan Zlatkis.

The Gittany family outside court. Picture: Evan Zlatkis.

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.


Gittany guilty of Harnum’s murder

Rachelle Louise outside court. Picture: Evan Zlatkis.

Rachelle Louise outside court. Picture: 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

Family ‘horrified’ by Kelly killer’s sentence

Top photo of Thomas Kelly on holiday in New York from the website of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation which is devoted to curbing alcohol-fuelled urban violence.

Top photo of Thomas Kelly on holiday in New York from the website of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation which is devoted to curbing alcohol-fuelled urban violence.

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

Relief as nursing home killer jailed for life

Life without parole ... Roger Dean at the scene of the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

Life without parole … Roger Dean at the scene of the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

A MAN who murdered 11 elderly residents of a Sydney nursing home two years ago will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Sentencing Roger Dean to life imprisonment, Justice Megan Latham told the NSW Supreme Court today the pain and terror experienced by the victims must have been horrific. The “heinous, atrocious and greatly reprehensible” crime was planned and premeditated. She said the victims, who were immobile and asleep at the time the fires were lit, were “vulnerable”, of “high dependence” and were in the “care and control of the offender”.

Dean deliberately started two fires in the Quakers Hill Nursing Home on November 18, 2011, to “create a distraction” from his theft of 238 prescription painkillers from the home. Three of the victims died immediately. Eight who suffered burns or lung damage from smoke inhalation died in hospital in the weeks following the incident.

The former registered nurse, 37, originally pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of murder and eight of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, but changed his plea the day his trial was to start. The death toll makes Dean the worst mass murderer in the state’s history, ahead of Belanglo Forest killer Ivan Milat.

Dean appeared on national television immediately after the fire, describing his efforts to help those trapped in the blaze. “I just quickly did what I can [to] get everyone out … the smoke is just overwhelming. We got a lot of people out, so that’s the main thing,” he told media crews.

The relatives of the victims cried and cheered in the packed public gallery, which included a strong police presence, as the sentence was handed down. One woman collapsed and had to be carried out of the courtroom.

One relative shouted, “You’ll get yours” as Dean was led away. Another yelled, “Rot in hell!” Dean showed no emotion during sentencing.

Outside the court, Amanda Tucker, whose grandmother, Dorothy Sterling, 80, died in the fire, said a life sentence would never take the pain away from her family. “My nanna never made it out of that nursing home … [Dean] walked straight past her and didn’t help.”

Elly Valkay, who lost her mother, Neeltje, 90, said the outcome was wonderful. “I hope he suffers as much in jail as my mother suffered the last four days of her life, which was horrendous,” she told reporters. “Our loss is still there, will always be there, but to know that justice has been done … it’s wonderful to see and it’s wonderful to feel”.

Lorraine Osland, whose mother Lola Bennett died in the blaze, said life would never be the same. “It wouldn’t matter what they gave him … it will never, ever be any different for us. He got a life sentence and so did we,” she said.

Neale Becke, the son of 96-year-old Doris Becke, said the sentence had brought him closure. “If you have a mother go home and give her a cuddle. You only have one,” he said.

Last month the state government announced that all aged-care homes in NSW will install fire sprinkler systems by March 2016. An inquiry heard last year that the deaths at Quakers Hill could have been averted had the nursing home been fitted with sprinklers.

Hey Dad! star to stand trial

FORMER Hey Dad! actor Robert Hughes will stand trial early next year over almost a dozen child sex offences.

The 64-year-old is facing 11 charges relating to the sexual and indecent assaults of five girls in the mid ’80s and early ’90s, when he played Martin Kelly in the family sitcom.

Hughes appeared in Downing Centre District Court where a trial date was fixed for February 10 next year.

Earlier this week Hughes waived his right to a committal hearing, electing to proceed straight to trial. His lawyer, Greg Walsh, said Hughes would fight all 11 charges.

“He asserts his innocence and it’s being vigorously defended,” he told reporters outside court.

Hughes was arrested in London last year and extradited to Sydney to face the charges.

His bail continues.

Killer jailed until 2037 for Ultimo murder

Jazmin-Jean Ajbschitz.

Jazmin-Jean Ajbschitz.

A MAN who bashed his 18-year-old girlfriend to death in an Ultimo apartment two years ago will spend at least 25-and-a-half years behind bars.

Sentencing Sean Lee King today, Justice Geoffrey Bellew described the attack on Jazmin-Jean Ajbschitz as vicious and inhuman. King had subjected his victim to “unimaginable terror”, Justice Bellew said.

King, 27, is to serve a maximum 33-and-a-half years in jail for that murder and for two earlier assaults, in 2010.

In April, a Supreme Court jury found King guilty of the murder of Miss Ajbschitz in her mother’s home. King had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, claiming he had been high on ice and did not intended to kill Miss Ajbschitz, but the Crown did not accept his plea.

The court heard King had sent threatening text messages to his girlfriend in the lead-up to the attack, saying “You don’t know what I can do. You think I’m joking. I’ll kill you. Wait till I see you.”

Miss Ajbschitz, known to friends at the private girls’ school Kambala as “Jazi”, died from blunt force trauma injuries to her heart and liver after “repeated stomping” and an “extreme amount of force”.

“It was clearly a volatile relationship,” Justice Bellew told the court. “He intended to kill her.”

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ajbschitz’s father, Shlomo Sol Ajbschitz, told an earlier hearing that he had come to Australia for a life free of violence after his family survived the Holocaust. But in “one brutal act” all his childhood nightmares had been “brought to life again”.

“Jazi was my youngest and my only girl,” he said. “Everything I fled from was back and they have stayed with me since Jazi’s death.”

King showed no emotion during the sentence, yawning in the dock.

After the sentencing his mother screamed, “You’ve got to live with what you’ve done” at the Ajbschitz family before storming out of the courtroom.

The earliest King will be eligible for release is April 2037, when he is 51.

Slipper ‘innocent’ of Cabcharge fraud

“MR Slipper, are you using a Cabcharge for that cab?” a journalist asked Peter Slipper as he got into a Silver Service taxi outside ACT Magistrates Court.

The former federal parliamentary speaker has pleaded not guilty to three charges relating to the misuse of government Cabcharge dockets (read more).

Mr Slipper maintains his innocence and says the matter will be “vigorously defended” when it returns to court in December.

Never far from controversy ... former speaker Peter Slipper leaves court in Canberra. Picture: Gary Ramage

Never far from controversy … former speaker Peter Slipper leaves court in Canberra. Picture: Gary Ramage

Jamie Jackson to plead not guilty

A SYDNEY man captured on video being thrown to the ground by a NSW Police officer at last month’s Mardi Gras parade will “vigorously” defend charges against him, his lawyer today indicated.

Jamie Jackson is accused of assaulting two police officers, resisting arrest and using offensive language during the annual gay and lesbian festival on March 2.

The arrest sparked claims of police brutality and a protest, after video footage of the altercation emerged, which shows Fairfield constable Leon Mixios slamming a crying Mr Jackson to the ground while handcuffed and stepping on his back.

The 18-year-old, from Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, was not present in Downing Centre Local Court, but his lawyer, Chris Murphy, said his client would deny the charges against him. “[Jamie] intends to plead not guilty to the charges, and we will be defending them vigorously,” he said.

Murphy told the court it was “an unlawful arrest for no offence” and that police “misbehaved badly”.

An internal police investigation into the incident, which made international headlines and has had more than a million views on YouTube, is under way.

The matter returns to court at the end of the month.

Reveller ... Jamie Jackson.

Reveller … Jamie Jackson.

Privilege to prison: socialite Oliver Curtis charged

AS A wedding gift, Oliver Curtis bought his publicist wife Roxy Jacenko a Ferrari. The couple’s wedding last March is rumoured to have cost more than $250,000. Together with Jacenko and daughter Pixie, he lives in a $6.6 million house in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

But if found guilty of conspiring to commit insider trading, the socialite and investment banker could experience a very different lifestyle.

Curtis, 27, faced Downing Centre Local Court today charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit insider trading.

If convicted, the son of the wealthy mining executive Nick Curtis faces a maximum sentence of five years’ jail. He is yet to enter a plea.

The charge relates to an alleged agreement between Curtis and his former close friend, John Hartman. Curtis allegedly traded based on inside information Hartman possessed about his then employer, Orion Asset Management. In doing so, the pair sought to take advantage of expected movements in Orion’s share price and split the profits, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission alleges.

Allegedly conspired to commit insider trading ... Oliver Curtis. Picture: Lee Besford

Allegedly conspired to commit insider trading … Oliver Curtis. Picture: Lee Besford

In April 2010, Hartman pleaded guilty to insider trading and was sentenced to three years’ jail. He served 15 months behind bars – the youngest person jailed in Australia for insider trading.

Curtis allegedly traded on 45 separate occasions between May 2007 and June 2008, profiting in excess of $1 million.

ASIC will allege that he shared the funds with Hartman in the form of cash and by purchasing expensive items for him.

Magistrate Graeme Curran granted Curtis bail and allowed him to keep his passport.

Ms Jacenko was not present in court.

John Hartman, left, and Roxy Jacenko.

John Hartman, left, and Roxy Jacenko.