The devastated parents of a 20-year-old ‘catfish’ victim have spoken about their grief at hearing evidence during the inquest regarding her suicide.
Teresa and Mark Marsden spoke out about their struggle to learn of the circumstances surrounding the death of their daughter Renae Marsden in Sydney’s east in 2013.
The grieving pair spoke to Weekend Sunrise and described the inquest as ‘the most harrowing week of our lives’.
Teresa and Mark Marsden (pictured) spoke of their grief at hearing evidence this week at the Sydney inquest into the death of their 20-year-old daughter Renae who was ‘catfished’ by a friend
Mrs Marsden said: ‘I’ve got to say I think it’s actually a lot worse for us now knowing the lead up to it.
‘We had no idea. The truth has all come out now and its been actually worse,’ she said.
The coronial inquest into Renae’s death revealed that her best friend and former lover, Camila Zeidan, had allegedly deceived Renae into believing she had a boyfriend called ‘Brayden Spiteri’ for 18 months.
Evidence at the inquest rattled the whole family and Mrs Marsden described the impact on Renae’s siblings: ‘Now they’re at an age where they can understand and can’t believe that someone who’s actually come into our home could do something like this.’
This is the heartbreaking final text message Renae Marsden sent her mother, Teresa, after she was allegedly deceived for years by ‘catfish’ Camila Zeidan
Moments before Renae took her own life, she sent her mother a heartbreaking text.
‘I’m sorry for everything and the pain I will now cause you,’ Renae said.
‘When you need to talk to me just call my name and I’ll be there.’
It was August 5, 2013, and the typically ‘bubbly’ and ‘happy’ receptionist was at The Gap, in Sydney’s east, contemplating ending her life.
She was besotted with her fake internet boyfriend Brayden Spiteri.
Brayden was, apparently, an inmate at Goulburn jail. He was supposedly behind bars over a motorcycle accident where his best friend had died, and had traded away his visitation rights for softer sentence.
Renae Marsden, 20 (left) died by suicide at The Gap in Sydney’s east on August 5, 2013 after her best friend Camila Zeidan (right) allegedly ‘catfished’ her
These are pictures of the man Renae believed was Brayden. But they depict another person = who had no idea of how his photos were being used
Tragic: Renae Marsden is pictured right with her mother Teresa left – who received a heartbreaking final text
Renae and Brayden messaged each other incessantly. She got a tattoo of his last name on her body, the court heard.
She dreamed of marrying him upon his release, which she was promised would happen before her 21st birthday.
But Brayden was all a concoction of Camila’s, Coroner Elaine Truscott was told this week.
And the ‘false reality’ Renae lived, believing she was in a relationship with a fictional person, ultimately led to Renae’s awful death, the inquest heard on Friday.
‘Sort your daughter out, threatening suicide’: How Brayden allegedly drove Renae to her death
At 2.59pm, the day Renae died, her mother Teresa received a blunt text from Brayden’s phone, according to the counsel assisting the inquest’s version of events.
‘Sort your daughter out, threatening suicide,’ the text said.
Brayden – really, his puppeteer, Camila – had reason to be worried.
Renae was devastated by a message she had received from Brayden that day, counsel assisting the inquest Sasha Harding said in her closing address.
The message to Renae, from Brayden, was along the lines of: ‘I think I need a break and so do you’, the court heard.
Renae hadn’t heard from Brayden for about a month when she received the text.
Renae was told Brayden was participating in a court case and couldn’t speak until early August. (Camila was on holidays in the United States at the time).
Her colleague Joseph Abbatte went to lunch with the visibly upset StarTrack receptionist about 1pm that day.
Renae was crying, Mr Abbatte said in an sworn affidavit to the court.
She used a napkin to wipe away her tears and waved the text in his face, before heading home.
Teresa Marsden handed the court these text message exchanges with ‘Brayden’ (in white, Teresa’s texts are in green’
Teresa Marsden was incredulous when she received the text from Brayden, unaware of the true nature of their relationship.
‘Please explain to my why a young woman would want to kill herself?’ she wrote back.
She confronted Renae at home but was reassured that she was OK.
Hours later, after telling her mother she was going to dinner with work friends, Renae drove 50 minutes from her home in Glenhaven to The Gap, the court heard.
She exchanged several texts with ‘Brayden’ and Camila, but police have been unable to obtain the contents of them.
Renae chucked her phone over the cliff before she died, and Camila and Brayden’s messages from that day could not be recovered by police.
She was seen for the last time alive, on CCTV footage at The Gap, 13 minutes after mobile phone tower data showed she received a text from Brayden.
Camila told the court this week that she deleted Renae’s final message ‘accidentally’.
She claimed Renae’s last message to her was something like, ‘You will always be my best friend, I will always love you’.
A break-up, ‘obsession’ and possessiveness: Camila’s alleged control over Renae
Camila Zeidan dodges the cameras this week
Camila this week took to the witness box to give evidence – under the condition that she be granted immunity from prosecution over any evidence she provided at the inquest.
She admitted that she was ‘Brayden’ at the other end of the phone, and that he had never existed.
But she claimed Brayden was a ‘character’ she and Renae, her ex-girlfriend, had created together, in order for them to be together despite others’ disapproval.
‘We both agreed we were never going to be accepted in a relationship, like, we weren’t ever going to be accepted together,’ Camila said on Tuesday.
‘So we created the character so that no one would find out.’
(Ms Harding claimed there was no evidence of this in the years of messages police did manage to obtain, and that Camila’s justification ‘makes no sense’).
Renae’s final possessions, as found in her car, including a collage of Brayden (right) captioned ‘I love you, baby!’
This is the collage of Brayden Spiteri which Renae Marsden carried around with her
The court heard Camila and Renae were in a relationship at school, at Mount St Benedict College in Sydney’s north west, when they were in Year 10 in 2008.
Camila denied her relationship with Renae was ‘obsessive’. But Ms Harding pointed to emails Camila sent to Renae that year to argue the opposite.
One email said: ‘I swear to God kid, you r going no where, do you understand, you abuse me, I’ll laugh, you kill me, I’ll be your ghost, you hate me, I’ll still love you, run away, chase you; you hide, I’ll hunt you down… Only I’ll own you … I’m too in love with u and too obsessed with you and crazy about you baby.’
Renae and Camila’s relationship fell apart after school. But the inquest heard evidence from Renae’s mother of Camila engaging in behaviour ‘like stalking’ of Renae in the years that followed.
‘I had 54 calls last night Camila. That’s f***ed. I’m sorry, but that’s possessive. If you can’t see that then there is something terribly wrong with you’.
Renae Marsden in a Facebook message to Camila Zeidan in September 2011
Teresa Marsden claimed in an affidavit that Camila would lurk at the top of the driveway in her car (Camila denies that) and follow her (which she also denies).
In one evening, Camila allegedly bombarded Renae with 54 missed calls in the one evening, the inquest heard.
In a Facebook message, Renae told Camila: ‘I had 54 calls last night Camila. That’s f***ed. I’m sorry, but that’s possessive.
‘If you can’t see that then there is something terribly wrong with you’.
Camila told the inquest: ‘I probably did try and talk to her … I don’t know what was going on at the time… It works both ways’.
Ms Harding claimed to the inquest that Camila had used ‘Brayden’ as a tool to break up Renae and her boyfriend after Camila, Angus Young. (Camila denies this.)
‘Camila as the ‘Brayden identity asserted mental control over Renae… Brayden sought to limit and sour Renae’s social life,’ Ms Harding said in her closing address.
‘(Meanwhile) for nearly two years, (Renae) dedicated her mental and emotional life to Brayden.’
‘(Renae’s) life was on hold, lived via her mobile phone, receiving and sending incessant messages to a fictional person.’
Catfishing is not a crime – but it may become one
Renae Marsden’s devastated 14-year-old sister Monique during a press conference this week
It is not clear whether Renae herself learned she was allegedly being ‘catfished’ prior to her death.
Police investigators told the inquest Renae had called Goulburn prison for 90 seconds at 2.44pm that afternoon.
An operator would have told Renae there was no one by that name at the prison, Detective Senior Constable Brent Bell told the court.
Catfishing – as the practice of creating fictional online love personas has become known – is not illegal in New South Wales, as Renae’s devastated family found out.
Mark Marsden, Renae’s father, told Daily Mail Australia outside court this week that it ‘beggars belief’ that there was no ‘right’ charge for police to lay against Camila.
And Ms Harding described just how the family felt about that in her closing remarks.
‘That the intentional and ongoing deceitful actions of Camila … was not enough for the police to take action to arrest and charge Camila with any criminal offence, has been truly confounding an inexplicable for the family,’ she said on Friday.
‘That there is no apparent criminal sanction …. is truly the deepest insult to the family, and no doubt the community.’ She called for the ‘apparent flaw’ in the law to be rectified.
Renae Marsden’s family were beside themselves with emotion after listening to Camila Zeidan’s testimony on Wednesday. Above, father Mark (right), brother Luke, sister Monique and mother, Teresa
WHY CAMILA GOT IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION
Coroner Elaine Truscott granted Camila Zeidan a certificate under section 61 of the Coroner’s Act – in other words, immunity from prosecution.
Camila’s lawyer had objected to her taking the stand as it might incriminate her in a criminal offence.
The coroner told Camila the certificate means ‘the evidence you give in these proceedings cannot be used against you in any other proceedings in a NSW court’.
In allowing the fact of Camila’s immunity to be published, Ms Truscott said on Thursday that Camila’s evidence did not, in fact, incriminate her in any offence.
The Marsden family were beside themselves with emotion after Camila’s first full day of testimony on Wednesday.
Renae’s mother yelled ‘I waited seven years for this’ after the day’s hearing ended. Camila had continuously said she ‘did not remember’ important events.
There were few dry eyes among the family as they spoke to reporters afterwards.
Mr Marsden said: ‘I think to some extent today’s proceedings are worse than losing Renae.
‘We’re very disappointed because we wanted some closure today,’
Renae’s little brother, Luke, said: ‘I look around and see my family in tears.
‘I wouldn’t wish this to my worst nightmare. No family deserves to be broken like this.’
The Coroner will report her findings at a later date.
For 24/7 confidential crisis support, contact Lifeline 13 11 14