Catfishing victim Renae Marsden’s long-term relationship with a fake person was devised so her best friend could secretly keep an intimate relationship with her, a Sydney coroner says.
Coroner Elaine Truscott began delivering her findings on Wednesday into the death of the 20-year-old Sydney woman who took her own life at Watsons Bay in August 2013.
Ms Marsden was seen sobbing the day of her death after a breakdown in her relationship with the man she intended to marry, Brayden Spiteri.
But, Ms Truscott said, the man had been created by Ms Marsden’s best friend, Camila Zeidan, so she could maintain an intimate relationship with her high school girlfriend.
“Renae did not want to be in a relationship with Camila Zeidan,” Ms Truscott said on Wednesday.
“Camila was unable to tolerate Renae being in an intense relationship … and had complained to Renae she didn’t like being second best.”
Ms Marsden and “Brayden” engaged in phone sex at times, with the young woman complaining when she sent intimate pictures and videos they weren’t reciprocated.
Her attachment to Brayden led her to break off her engagement to another man in early 2013 when her fiance gave her an ultimatum.
Besides a text Ms Marsden showed a co-worker, the communications between Ms Marsden and Brayden on the day she died remained unknown to all but Ms Zeidan, the coroner said.
Advances in technology in 2019 uncovered the content of texts Ms Marsden sent and received on a second phone she used to communicate with Brayden between March and June 2013.
“[The communication] reveals the nature and progress of the relationship and contradicts Camila Zeidan’s claim that Renae knew Brayden was not a real person,” Ms Truscott said.
Ms Zeidan told the inquest Ms Marsden was in on the ruse because their families would not approve of their lesbian relationship.
But Ms Truscott said there was no evidence the women were intimately involved at the time.
The evidence instead demonstrated the catfishing allowed Ms Zeidan to free herself of the jealously she felt whenever Ms Marsden was in a relationship with a man.
The Marsden family has campaigned for law reform to specifically address catfishing.
Ms Truscott said it was unclear whether catfishing like that that Ms Marsden experienced would be covered by current laws against using mobile networks to menace, harass or offend.
The coroner’s findings continue.
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