Family’s emotional plea to ‘catfish’ ex-lover
The family and friends of a young woman who died by suicide after allegedly being catfished by a friend who claims they were both in on the arrangement have burst from a courtroom in tears.
"Please, please tell the truth," one of Renae Marsden's loved ones yelled, walking out of the NSW Coroner's Court in Sydney today.
The emotional display ended a day of gruelling evidence from former friend and lover, Camila Zeidan, at an inquest into the 20-year-old's death. Ms Marsden took her own life at The Gap in the city's eastern suburbs on August 5, 2013.
"You were in conversation with Renae during the day," counsel assisting the coroner, Sasha Harding, said to Ms Zeidan - who was sitting in the witness box - on Wednesday afternoon.
"You knew what was going on. We've got family sitting here today … they want to know what really happened.
"You are not telling the truth. You can hear from the courtroom no one believes you. This is an opportunity to come clean, to tell the family what happened."
Ms Zeidan, 27, replied: "I don't know".
At the time of her death, Ms Marsden had been in a relationship since November 2011 with a man she believed was Brayden Spiteri, planning a wedding and looking for a bridal dress.
He told her he was serving time in Goulburn jail and despite never meeting, the pair exchanged more than 11,000 text messages. But police found no evidence Brayden existed.
One of Ms Marsden's colleagues, in a statement to the court, said he knew she received upsetting text messages from Brayden on the day of her death, including one that read something similar to "I think I need a break and so do you".
Ms Zeidan has since admitted to being "Brayden", sending the messages to Ms Marsden, and testified on oath that the two women made up the character so they could "be together".
Ms Harding today said Ms Marsden had given Brayden an "ultimatum" over the phone in April 2013 and asked to speak to his lawyer.
"Renae sends a text message to Brayden, which you (Camila) say is you: 'There's some things that just don't make sense to me sometimes and I'm finding it hard to believe'," she recounted to Ms Zeidan.
"I want the truth once and for all … so organise for me to talk to him or I'm out."
Ms Zeidan told the court: "We were continuing as the character and being in a relationship through the character."
She denied she was lying.
"It doesn't make sense, Camila," Ms Harding said.
The court heard Ms Marsden had sent Brayden photos and videos of a sexual nature and asked him to reciprocate.
Deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott, who is presiding over the inquest into the young woman's death, asked Ms Zeidan why Ms Marsden would ask that "if she knew it was you".
"Because she would go along with the character," Ms Zeidan said. Ms Marsden's family and friends groaned in their seats in the public gallery.
"I don't think there's any much point in continuing this examination," the coroner said.
"And the evidence will speak for itself."
The court earlier this week heard evidence Ms Zeidan had driven to Ms Marsden's family home the night she went missing, getting into a car with her mother and driving to areas Renae visited including "Brayden's sister's house" in Glenhaven.
When she was asked by police in August 2013 to provide the address, Ms Zeidan said: "I don't really know the name".
The coroner, Ms Truscott, today asked: "Why would you nominate a house that nobody's sister lives at? You're deliberately saying that to avoid responsibility for taking Renae's mother on a wild-goose chase?"
"No, I'm not," Ms Zeidan replied.
She also sent a text message to Ms Marsden's mother on the day of her death, from Brayden, which read: 'Sort your daughter out. Threatening to kill herself'."
Ms Zeidan told the court on Wednesday afternoon she had received messages from Ms Marsden that day "that she was unhappy" and told her "not to go do anything".
"She didn't indicate anything after that. She didn't say any more about it," Ms Zeidan said.
Ms Harding, asked: "Why wouldn't you, even as Camila, go to Teresa (Marsden)'s house and tell her 'This is serious'?"
"I didn't know how serious it was. She said it a lot of times that she was unhappy," Ms Zeidan said.
"I didn't know what was going on."
Outside court, Ms Marsden's mother, said: "We've been robbed today. Seven years we waited for this and we've got nothing".
"She (Camila) took me around that night looking for my daughter."
Mark Marsden, the young woman's father, said it had been a "harrowing day" for the family.
"To some extent today's proceedings are worse than losing Renae," he said outside court.
"We're very disappointed because we wanted some closure today. We would've liked Camila to come and tell us the truth of what happened the last time we saw Renae."
He added: "We think the coroner will support that Renae wasn't complicit in this".
The Marsdens want catfishing to be made a criminal offence. The inquest is set down until Friday.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.