The footage of convicted murderer Simon Gittany pulling former fiancee Lisa Harnum out of the lens of a CCTV security camera, hand clamped over her mouth, just over one minute before her horrific death paints such an unforgettably crystalline picture of the relationship dynamic that you feel a tangible sense of the terror Ms Harnum had of her partner. The video is so distressing it’s hard to think about, let alone watch. Even Simon Gittany’s current girlfriend, Rachelle Louise – who has defended her partner and avowed his innocence throughout the trial and beyond – admits the footage looks very bad.
“It really does look horrifying when you look at it that way but, I mean, you’ve got to understand also that Simon’s acting instinctively.”
Last night, this is what Rachelle Louise told Seven reporter Ross Coulthart in an exclusive interview for Sunday Night; an interview for which she was allegedly paid in the tens of thousands of dollars.
She continued, “[Simon and Lisa] have a relationship where she would run away from him, and he would chase her, and it’s exactly what he has done. She has run. He has chased her. She has screamed. He has put his hand on her mouth and brought her back inside.”
Rachelle Louise’s ability to defend Gittany against every allegation from his past until now seemed prepared to the point of premeditation. She had an answer and explanation for every question, and a readiness to accept her boyfriend’s innocence despite several troubling past incidents – including the allegation that he bit a chunk off the ear of a plain clothes policeman – and plain evidence from the trial used to illustrate his character. It didn’t ring true or genuine: She gave the impression of someone who had been coached to be camera-ready.
One of the interview’s more disturbing moments was her response to Gittany’s monitoring of Lisa Harnum’s phone messages and whether she would feel comfortable if someone was to do the same to her. “Well, to be honest I really wouldn’t care, because I don’t have anything to hide,” Ms Louise said.
She even managed to have a ready line to defend this frighteningly invasive behaviour that is simply indefensible. That rings warning bells.
While some public responses on Twitter were highly critical of Louise – accusing her of opportunism and more – the majority of viewers recognised her as a young woman of average intelligence who, like Lisa Harnum before her, appears to be firmly under the spell of a charismatic, manipulative and controlling individual. In fact, she actually confirmed her boyfriend’s tendency for control when asked if Gittany had ever stopped her from leaving their apartment .
“He’s never stopped me like physically restrained me from leaving, but he’s stopped me from leaving like, stood at the door,” she said. “I know that he doesn’t like to leave me to leave the apartment so I purposely said ‘I’m leaving the apartment’, and he was like ‘No you’re not leaving’ and I said ‘Yes I am’.”
Ms Louise might be among the many who don’t recognise non-violent attempts to control as abuse. Emotional abuse in domestic relationships is characterised by one partner’s aim to denigrate the other partner’s feelings of self-worth and independence through domination and control – like preventing them from leaving the apartment in which they live.
In the five-hour judgment following Gittany’s murder trial, NSW Supreme Court judge Justice Lucy McCallum said, “I do not think there can be any doubt that the accused was controlling, dominating and at times abusive.”
Simon Gittany is expected to receive his sentencing Tuesday.
Domestic violence is a crime. If you are scared now or in
immediate danger, call 000. If you experience violence in a relationship
or from a family member, call 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732 or visit this website.
Main image via Sunday Night.