Cruel catfish stunt key to suicide inquest
The cruel act of catfishing will be the focus of an inquest after a young woman was duped into a fake and manipulative relationship before committing suicide.
Renae Marsden was a fun-loving, bubbly 20-year-old with the world at her feet.
She had been working as a hairdresser but wanted to move into forensics with the support of her parents, Mark and Teresa Marsden.
In the 18 months before her suspected suicide in 2013, she was bombarded with more than 11,000 texts from a man she knew as "Brayden".
But Brayden was not real: Renae's parents believe someone posed as a suitor, using pictures of an unidentified young man and communicating with Renae on a fake number.
Renae, who lived at home with her parents and three siblings, thought she had found the love of her life.
She had a photograph of Brayden on a dresser in her bedroom and had started secretly planning her wedding.
Brayden was one of the last people she messaged before she threw her phone into the ocean and took her life on August 5, 2013 at The Gap in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
Renae was allegedly the victim of a cruel catfishing stunt, the practice of faking an identity to lure a person into a relationship.
"We have had to live and breathe this," her father, Mr Marsden, said.
"For my wife and kids it has been absolute hell.
"That somebody can do this to your daughter to the point she takes her own life, it is about as wrong as it gets."
A friend of Renae's, who allegedly set Brayden and her up, will be called to give evidence as a witness in the NSW Coroner's Court this week at an inquest into the young woman's death.
An analysis of phone records from the friend and "Brayden" revealed the signals all pinged off the same mobile tower, Mrs Marsden said.
According to Mrs Marsden, the friend and Renae became friends in high school.
At one point Renae, the friend and their mothers met at a cafe about 2009.
Renae didn't want to be friends any more but the friend exploded, screaming "I love you" and following her to the car.
She was out of Renae's life for a little while until 2011.
Renae later told her mum she liked a boy named Brayden, who the friend had introduced her to. They messaged each other constantly.
Mrs Marsden said at one point the friend said she was going away for a month on holiday and that Brayden would be offline too because he had a court hearing.
In the lead-up to her disappearance, Renae was happy; she danced at her cousin's birthday and planned for an upcoming cruise.
Then, on August 5, 2013, according to a work colleague, she received a break-up message from "Brayden".
Mrs Marsden said she sat with her daughter on her bed that afternoon and Renae told her: "Mum you don't have to worry about him any more, I finally found out what he is all about."
Renae told her family she was going out to dinner with friends and never came home again. The last messages she sent were to Brayden, her mother and the friend.
Phone records discovered in the following days revealed she called Goulburn jail, where Brayden was supposedly being held.
Renae's family believe she found out he didn't exist and took her own life hours later.
"My daughter was not depressed. She was anything but," Mrs Marsden said.
The friend's lawyer Danny Eid said: "Police have told me she is not a suspect nor is it suggested that she has committed any crime. Nor will it be suggested that she has done so. She is purely a witness for the coroner."
The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.