Renae Marsden: Coroner slams ‘liar’ catfisher over 20-year-old’s tragic suicide

A coroner has slammed the pack of lies told by a woman who catfished her best friend, leading the 20-year-old to tragically suicide.NSW Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott has found the actions of Camila Zeidan “caused the hurt and heartache which led (Ms Mardsen) to take her own life”.
Ms Truscott found Zeidan, 27, deliberately catfished Renae Marsden, 20, by masquerading as an adoring prison lover so she could manipulate her for her own romantic desires.
Zeidan had told numerous lies, had lied to police and lied the family of the dead woman, Renee Marsden, the inquest into Ms Marsden’s death heard.
Ms Truscott said lies had “amplified … the pain” of Ms Mardsen’s family, and that her “lack of co-operation” had resulted in “further torment” of the family’s suffering.
When Zeidan, posing as jail inmate Brayden Spiteri, ended the relationship, Renae Marsden ended her life, the inquest heard.
Ms Truscott said Zeidan “exacted her ultimate revenge by making Brayden break Renae’s heart” after Renae severed her longtime friendship with Zeidan.
“Camila knew that terminating the relationship would leave Renee devastated,” Ms Truscott said.
She said Renae had “a strong connection, deep love and was prepared to wait for (Brayden’s) release from prison” and truly believed Brayden was real and they would marry.
Ms Marsden, a trained hairdresser and receptionist, suicided in Sydney’s east on the evening of August 5, 2013, although her remains have never been found.
“I find that Renae Marsden died of fatal fall injuries after she deliberately slipped from the cliffs … after the termination of a relationship with person whose identity was fabricated and created for the purposes of exercising control and coercion over her by a known person,” Ms Truscott said.
Ms Truscott told the inquest into Ms Marsden’s death on Wednesday that a violent and possessive Camila Zeidan had created a fake boyfriend for Ms Marsden so she could control her.
She rejected Zeidan’s claims that Ms Marsden knew Spiteri was fake and that the pair had concocted the phantom lover to hide a secret lesbian relationship.
Further, she said, Zeidan had taunted Renae’s mother and increased her torment over her daughter’s death with lies.
Ms Truscott said one of many lies Zeidan had told Renae’s family, was telling her mother Teresa Marsden that Renae killed herself “because she was unhappy at home”.
Zeidan made up the character of Ms Marsden’s boyfriend, a purported Goulburn correctional centre prisoner, and communicated as him via text and Facebook on a specially bought BlackBerry phone with Renae.
Brayden was supposedly a graduate of the exclusive Kings School and set to take over his wealthy father’s multimillion-dollar construction business.
Though Renae never met Brayden, she became besotted with him in a relationship which Brayden ended when Renae hoped he was getting out of jail and could meet and marry her.
The inquest heard that Zeidan as Brayden also ended the relationship because Renae said she was finally ending her longtime friendship with Zeidan.
The court heard Renae had told her mother in July 2013 that she was “frightened of” Zeidan who had “punched her, pulled her hair” and grabbed the steering wheel when she was driving.
Ms Truscott said a friend had observed “red marks and bruises” on Renae from “being pushed by Camila”.
Hours after Brayden ended the romance with Ms Marsden, Ms Truscott said, Renae got dressed, put on make-up, drove to The Gap and wrote on the windows of her car that she loved Brayden.
After placing her shoes neatly in a gun turret, she sent three text messages from the cliff top, “threw her phone off the cliff and then shortly thereafter herself”.
Ms Truscott said that Camila Zeidan had later gone out with Renae’s mother Teresa to look for the missing Renae, and the pair had driven to a house where she claimed the sister of the fictitious Brayden lived.
Ms Truscott said that Camilla Zeidan had claimed she and Renae had invented the Brayden character together to hide a “secret lesbian relationship” between the two women.
But she said there was no evidence of this, that “Renae believed Brayden was real” and had engaged in an intimate relationship, which included phone sex, even thought they hadn’t met.
Despite a friend telling Renae “Brayden was not real” and a boyfriend showing Brayden and Camila’s messages had the “same punctuation and grammar”, she insisted he was real.
She read out a series of messages sent to Renae from “Brayden Spiteri aka Camila Zeidan” which show a sophisticated and lengthy campaign of manipulation.
Ms Truscott said Camila, masquerading as Brayden, had orchestrated the deception so she would not longer have men, including Renae’s two fiances, as competition.
“Camila freed herself of the jealousy and possessiveness she felt by Renae being in a relationship with a man,” Ms Truscott said.
“She no longer needed to compete with one of Renee’s boyfriends … (she could) exercise coercion and control of Renae as Brayden.
“Police investigating telephone records (found) that Brayden Spiteri did not exist at all.
“Camila Zeidan assumed the identity of Brayden and using SMS an Facebook engaged Renae in an intimate relationship for almost two years.”
Ms Truscott said whenever Camilla went on holidays and it became more difficult to keep up the alter ego, Brayden would be out of touch for different reasons, including having an operation.
She said that by September 2012, “it is unclear whether (Camila Zeidan) … had become enmeshed with Brayden’s identity. In 2012 Camila’s mental health deteriorated”.
Less than two months before she died, Renae confided in Brayden that she was ending friendship with Camila.
Prior to this, whenever Renae had suggested she was ending it Camila as Brayden would argue against it.
But finally, Renae told Brayden “I’m over it. I don’t want a friend like that.”
Ms Truscott said of Renae that at that moment, “little does she know it’s … the beginning of the end of her relationship with Brayden”.
She said the “intense relationship” between Renae and Brayden included Facebook messages and 11,000 text messages between March and June 2013 alone.
Ms Marsden took her own life after receiving a text the same day from Brayden saying, “I think I need a break and so do you”.
Ms Truscott said Ms Marsden had been secretly “making plans to marry” Brayden after her 21st birthday in October, 2013 and had an appointment the next month to speak with a wedding photographer.
Her internet search history in the weeks before her death including websites for bridal dresses and photographers.
Spiteri had told her he was serving time in Goulburn jail over a fatal motorcycle accident in which his friend had died.
Photos of the person purporting to be Brayden showed a smiling man with a six pack, with whom Renae became besotted.
Brayden had supposedly traded away his prison visitation rights for a softer sentence.
The court heard Renae went with Camila to Bondi Ink and had “B Spiteri” tattooed on her chest and that she had bought a prepaid phone for him to use in prison so he could keep in touch.
Because mobile phones are prohibited in jail, Brayden said he could only contact her by text or Facebook so no-one would ever hear him speaking on the illegal phone.
Moments before Ms Marsden took her life, she sent her mother Teresa a heartbreaking text.
“I’m sorry for everything and the pain I will now cause you,” Renae wrote.
“When you need to talk to me just call my name and I’ll be there.”
Coroner Truscott detailed the moments leading up to Renae Marsden’s suicide, saying in 2012
Renae’s mother had told her daughter that Brayden was “rude and arrogant” and “it was not a good relationship to be in”.
In August 2012, Renae had learnt from Brayden that he was possibly being granted release from prison.
The next month she ended up in hospital after an overdose, telling her mother the relationship had ended and she was “happy to be alive”.
In 2013, Renae became involved with and engaged briefly to a work colleague named Ian.
But when Ian gave Renae an ultimatum to choose between him and Brayden, she chose the latter.
The court heard that she was still friends with Camila Zeidan, but that there was evidence “Renae experienced abuse from Camila, including physical abuse”.
Camila Zeidan, 27, who has not been charged with any offence, was subpoenaed in February this year 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, Zeidan claimed at an earlier hearing, but Ms Truscott said evidence showed they were friends only.
On the day she died, Renae was “shaking and crying” and told a work colleague Joseph that her boyfriend Brayden was “being blunt”.
Phone records reveal 92 text messages were exchanged between Renae and Brayden, but Renae only showed Joseph the message in which he asked for them to “take a break” as a couple.
Renae left work early and called Goulburn prison but could not get through to Brayden.
When she got home, Brayden had texted her mother saying “sort your daughter out, she’s thinking of killing herself”.
When Teresa asked if this was true, Renae replied “don’t be stupid. I would never do that.
“Mum, you don’t need to worry about him any more. Mum, it’s all over.”
Before her death, Renae sent final texts to her mother, Brayden and Camila.
After Mrs Marsden learnt of her daughter’s death, she sent texts to Brayden saying “I want answers now”, but received no reply.
Camila Zeidan told Teresa that “Brayden had spoken to her and he was upset people were blaming him”.
Ms Truscott noted that when Camila Zeidan testified after being subpoenaed to the inquest in February, she “would not concede the creation and perpetuation of Brayden was done without the knowledge of Renae”.
Ms Truscott said although catfishing was not in itself an offence under the Crimes Act, it was unclear if the crime of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend applied in this case.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of three years.
She said catfishing was a deception offence wherein a person created and identity which could be used for abuse, fraud or romantic purposes.
Ms Truscott said Renae Marsden had “taken her life as the result of someone who doesn’t exist” and the community would expect some response to the gravity of that.
In formal recommendations, Ms Truscott said the NSW Domestic Violence Death review team should conduct an in-depth review of the case.
Ms Truscott said one of Renae’s boyfriends had described her as a “very happy and bubbly … glass half full person”.
She said Camila Zeidan had shown obsessive traits when Renae was going out with that boyfriend, and had followed her, turned up at locations and sat in a car outside her house.
On one such occasion, Renae had told her she didn’t want the friendship to continue.
The court heard Teresa Marsden had to physically intervene as Camila pleaded, “you don’t mean it, you don’t mean it”.
When Camila made derogatory remarks about Renae’s boyfriend and demanded she “make a choice”, Renae told her there would “always be another person” in her life.
Members of Ms Marsden’s family, including her parents Teresa and Mark, have attended every sitting of the inquest hearings.
The Marsdens have said they believe catfishing should be recognised as a crime.
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