Renae Marsden, 20, died on August 5, 2013 at The Gap in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
The NSW Coroner’s Court in Sydney today heard she had been secretly planning to marry a man named Brayden Spiteri, with her internet search history in the weeks before her death including websites for bridal dresses and photographers.
The man had told her he was serving time in Goulburn jail over a fatal motorcycle accident.
Despite never meeting, more than 11,000 text messages were exchanged between the pair. The court heard Renae had his surname tattooed on her body and there was evidence she used her own money to pay for his prepaid phone.
But police found there was no proof Brayden ever existed.
Alleged catfish Camila Zeidan, 27, who has not been charged with any offence, was subpoenaed to give evidence at the inquest into Renae’s death.
The two girls were close friends at high school and at one stage had been in a relationship, the court heard.
“I trusted you, I invited you into our home,” Renae’s mother, Teresa Marsden, yelled at Ms Zeidan as she rushed into a car outside the court complex yesterday amid a throng of reporters and television cameras. One of Ms Zeidan’s friends fell over on the steps.
Ms Zeidan’s barrister, Brett Longville, today said “the sheer tragedy of this case is well acknowledged” and emotions are high but it was “quite unsavoury” for his client to be confronted by the media and “at least confronted verbally” by Renae’s family and friends.
“Quite heated words were directed towards Ms Zeidan,” he said.
“In my respectful submission, it doesn’t really assist in the presentation of the case.”
Deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott opened the second day of the inquest with an apology to Ms Zeidan for what she had endured.
“I did not subpoena her to be pilloried … and not to have to run a gauntlet of media thrusting microphones and cameras in her face, the face of her father or pursue them to their vehicle,” she said on Tuesday.
“This happens a lot at this court and it needs to stop.”
Ms Truscott said special arrangements had been made for Ms Zeidan and her family to attend court for the rest of the week “without having to be subjected to such conduct”.
“I thank you for attending court and showing respect to the subpoena … because I know it’s difficult for you,” Ms Truscott said.
At that point, one of Renae’s brothers shook his head and walked out of the courtroom.
Detective Senior Constable Brent Bell today said Ms Zeidan, who sat in the public gallery in a white T-shirt and jeans, spoke to police in Parramatta three weeks after Renae’s death.
She said she had met Brayden once when she went to a brewery in Windsor with Renae.
Ms Zeidan described Brayden “as being a tall build with longish hair to above his shoulders”.
“She stated that she’d seen him from a distance but had never really spoken to him?” counsel assisting the coroner, Sasha Harding, asked Det Bell, who replied “Yes”.
Ms Harding said: “We’ve identified some photographs contained in the collage that appears to have been made by Renae … do you agree that that (description of Brayden) is different?”
“Yes, I do,” Det Bell replied.
Ms Harding asked Det Bell if he agreed that in phone records “Renae indicates on a number of occasions that she’s never met Brayden”.
“Yes,” he replied.
Ms Harding asked: “So that comment is untrue, would you agree, that Renae had met Brayden?”
“It’s my opinion that never occurred,” Det Bell replied.
He said Ms Zeidan told police she once had Brayden’s number in her phone but “never texted him”. She also said the device broke and she’d had a new phone for the last month.
The court heard Ms Zeidan told police her last text from Renae was “something like, ‘You will always be my best friend, I will always love you. Hope one day you can forgive me’.”
Ms Harding asked Det Bell: “On August 25, 2013 she told (the officer) that she didn’t think the text message was serious?”
“Yes,” he replied.
However, Ms Harding said Renae’s mother received a text from Brayden on August 5, 2013 saying, “Sort your daughter out. Threatening to kill herself.”
She asked Det Bell: “If one is to accept that Camila is the person posing as Brayden and sending a text message to Teresa, the comment of ‘she further stated that she didn’t think the message was serious’ is possibly incongruous?”
“Yes, I wouldn’t believe that to be correct because it was enough for Brayden’s phone to message there was a threat to kill herself,” he replied.
In the same interview on August 25, 2013, Ms Zeidan told police when she found out her friend was missing she drove to her house and got in the car with Renae’s mother.
“Teresa (Marsden) and Camila then drove around the neighbourhood to areas where Renae liked to go and continued to call Renae’s telephone,” Ms Harding told the court.
“She had driven up and down the street and where Brayden’s sister’s house was in Glenhaven.”
Renae’s friends scoffed in court at the mention of Brayden’s sister and looked in the direction of Ms Zeidan’s family.
Ms Harding said when Ms Zeidan was asked the address of Brayden’s sister’s house, she told police: “I don’t really know the name.”
Ms Zeidan further told police she “had a relationship with Renae while they were at school but nothing sexual”.
Det Bell agreed with Ms Harding that emails exchanged between Camila and Renae years earlier, in 2008, proved otherwise.
One of these emails, from Camila to Renae in July 2008, was read aloud in court.
“I love you so much. I’ll try be back soon I promise. I love you so much,” Ms Harding read.
“Baby, you can get phone sex with me every night … and then I’ll give you sex in bed, okay?”
Ms Harding asked Det Bell: “Would you agree that that (relationship) is different to what Camila had indicated to the police?”
“Yes,” he replied.
Ms Zeidan was asked in the police interview if she was Brayden Spiteri.
“No. I know that a lot of people think I am. Everyone is against me. I wish I was where Renae is now,” the young woman said, according to Ms Harding.
“Wherever she is, I just want to have the peace she is having now. We could be together, do you think she is really gone?”
According to a statement from a colleague, tendered in court, Renae received upsetting text messages from Brayden at work on the day of her death after a month of radio silence.
Ms Harding said the man remembered one message read something similar to “I think I need a break and so do you”.
“After receiving it, she began to cry. I saw that Renae had tears running down her face … she was shaking and her face went read,” the colleague told police.
Ms Zeidan is yet to be called to give evidence. The inquest continues.