The parents of a young woman who took her life at The Gap want “catfishing” to be criminalised after their “bubbly, fun-loving” daughter became a victim of a faked romance they believe was orchestrated by her friend.
An inquest into the tragic death of 20-year-old Glenhaven woman Renae Marsden in August 2013 is set to examine the act of luring someone into a relationship using a fictional online persona, with her parents Teresa and Mark hoping the person behind the sinister hoax will be held responsible.
“There is no closure for us until we determine the facts surrounding her disappearance, and this won’t be resolved until [the friend] decides or is forced to tell the truth, Mr Marsden said on the eve of a five-day inquiry to be held at the NSW Coroners Court in Lidcombe.
“Ultimately we would like to see the perpetrator charged, and that the coroner recommends the laws surrounding catfishing are tightened to make it a criminal offence.”
He described Ms Marsden as a “happy, bubbly, fun-loving girl” who had been studying forensics before police found her car parked at Watsons Bay, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, on the night of August 5, with Ms Marsden nowhere to be seen.
In a police statement seen by the Herald, Mrs Marsden said her daughter met the friend while at high school in Sydney’s north-west, with the relationship becoming a concern for the parents as the friend was violent and obsessed, writing love letters to her daughter and following her.
When the pair and their mothers met at a shopping centre cafe in 2009, the friend said: “You don’t mean it, we are best friends” when Ms Marsden told her she no longer wanted their friendship to endure.
Mrs Marsden said her daughter and the woman resumed their relationship two years later, and the friend had introduced her to her ex-boyfriend, a 23-year-old man named “Brayden” whom Ms Marsden liked.
She said her daughter told her Brayden sent her flowers on Valentine’s Day in 2012, and that he had been sent to Goulburn jail for manslaughter over a fatal motorbike accident involving his friend.
In his police statement, Mark Marsden said his daughter told him and his wife Brayden’s family had plenty of money and were able to pay prison staff to allow him to use a mobile phone.
“Brayden can only text Renae and is not allowed to talk on the phone as the phone will be taken away from him if he is heard talking,” Mr Marsden said of what he’d been told.
“In the whole time Renae was supposedly dating Brayden, not once did I (or anyone else) hear his voice. Apparently Renae often talked to him [by voice] and he would text back to her.”
Mrs Marsden said she had urged her daughter to break up with Brayden, who she said had sent her abusive texts.
On August 5, days after again ending her friendship with the woman, Ms Marsden said of Brayden, “Mum, you don’t have to worry about him anymore, I finally found out what he is all about”.
Mrs Marsden said: “To this day, I am not exactly sure what she meant – did she finally realise that Brayden might actually be [her friend]?”
Mr Marsden said his daughter’s phone records showed she had called Goulburn jail on the day she left home for good.
“After the phone call she may have come to the conclusion that there was no Brayden at all,” he said.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
Download now Android App OR iOS App (Get the news that matters from The Indian Telegraph and Download Year 2020 Monthly Free Magazine.)