Sydney Morning Herald

'Through hell and back': Family of catfishing victim vow to fight on

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 24/05/2020 05:43:00 Laura Chung

Video provided by Nine News

Teresa and Mark Marsden still feel the loss of their daughter seven years after she took her life at The Gap, an infamous suicide spot in Sydney's east. They feel her absence every day, but most acutely at birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. They still receive letters and fines addressed to Renae Marsden for not voting.

While they won't get their daughter back, they are determined no one ever experiences the journey to hell they've been on.

In 2013, Renae Marsden was making wedding plans, enquiring about a honeymoon in Greece and looking forward to her 21st birthday. Her friends and family describe her as a happy, bubbly and loving young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.

But on August 5, Ms Marsden took her life at The Gap after her relationship with the man she'd been dating for two years, but had never met, came to an end.

Her body has never been found.

Unbeknownst to Ms Marsden, the man she was dating, Brayden Spiteri, never existed.

A coronial inquest this week found Mr Spiteri was a character created by high school friend Camila Zeidan to maintain control and an intimate relationship with Ms Marsden.

"By catfishing Renae, Camila could have some kind of intimate relationship she wanted with Renae as well as an ongoing friendship with her," Coroner Elaine Truscott said on Wednesday.

Catfishing is the deceptive practice of seduction through a fake persona.

Ms Zeidan maintains Mr Spiteri was a character the women created so they could be in a romantic relationship without their families knowing.

But Ms Truscott said there was no evidence the women were romantically involved at the time.

She found that following Ms Marsden's death, Ms Zeidan destroyed the mobile phone used to maintain the Mr Spiteri character, continued to pretend he existed and denied being him "to avoid being revealed as the person who had caused Renae the hurt and heartbreak that led her to take her own life."

"It is the same reason why she has continued to lie to the inquest maintaining that Renae was party to the pretence," Ms Truscott said.

She added that there was no basis to think that Ms Zeidan incited Ms Marsden to take her life.

There is no specific offence in NSW for catfishing other than where the conduct falls within an already defined offence such as financial fraud, deception, stalking, harassment or extortion.

Where catfishing is without threat or is not for financial gain, it appears to be committed with the intent to coerce and control someone for the purpose of wish fulfilment or some other gratification, Ms Truscott said.

"Though such conduct may cause the recipient mental and or physical harm because it is not conduct committed with the necessary intent it falls outside the parameters of a known state criminal offence," she said.

She fell short of saying catfishing should be criminalised, rather further investigation was required by the Department of Communities and Justice's Domestic Violence Death Review Team.

A spokesperson for the department said it would carefully review the coroner's findings.

For the Marsden family, the journey isn't over. They will continue fighting for a law in their daughter's name to ensure no one experiences their heartbreak.

"We don't have Renae's body, we have nothing of her. I couldn't prevent what happened to Renae, but I can prevent it from happening to someone else," Mrs Marsden said.

"We been through hell and back with all this," Mr Marsden said.

Mr Marsden said the passing of a catfishing law could help keep his daughter's spirit alive.

"Our motivation is we cannot sit back and let this die. We can't get Renae back, but if we can change the laws, we will have achieved something," he said."We are not going to go away, we will bang doors down, and do what we need to do."

Barrister and senior law lecturer at UTS Geoff Holland said while further research into catfishing was needed, there was increasing demand for law reform, given social media's role in society.

"The law can't rely on what we currently have, because a large part of the problem is the laws weren't designed to deal with a situation such as this," he said.

"We need to review how the law can deal specifically with problems where someone sets out, for whatever reason, to deceive another person using an online identity."

Lifeline: (13 11 14 and, the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and and beyondblue (1300 22 4636 and

24. toukokuuta 2020 8:43:00 Categories: - info - monde RTBF Sydney Morning Herald

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