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EXCLUSIVE: Australian catfishing victim Renae Marsden's parents speak out

When Renae Marsden was introduced to "Brayden" she thought she'd met the man of her dreams. As Genevieve Gannon found, what unfolded was an unimaginable nightmare.

By Genevieve Gannon
During the last weeks of her life, 20-year-old Renae Marsden was looking at bridal websites and preparing to marry the man she loved.
At just 152cm she was diminutive, but she always filled up a room with her loud laugh and bright personality.
"That laugh of hers …" her mother Teresa says, breaking off, in an emotional interview with The Weekly.
On August 5, 2013, Renae told Teresa she was planning to have dinner with friends.
She was never seen again.
Renae's car was discovered abandoned at The Gap, a notorious suicide spot in eastern Sydney, and police determined she had taken her own life. But Teresa and her husband Mark sensed something darker was at play.
"We said from day one, 'Something's not right here'," Teresa says.
She and Mark conducted their own investigation.
What they uncovered was an elaborate fiction that, they believe, destroyed their daughter.
"Lies, deceit, manipulation, control," Mark says. "Pure evil, in my opinion."
Renae Marsden pictured before her death. Image: Supplied
The image of "Brayden" used to lure in Renae. Image: Supplied
Renae's family and friends had watched her fall in love with Brayden Spiteri after being introduced to him, via text, by her old school friend Camila Zeidan back in November 2011.
But she had never met him in person.
Shortly after they connected her told her he had been sent to Goulburn Jail after being implicated in a car accident that had killed his best friend.
When Theresa and Mark tried to contact Brayden after Renae's disappearance, it became clear he didn't exist.
With the help of police they made a shocking discovery, Brayden had been Camila all along.
Before Renae disappeared Theresa received a message from Brayden that said: "Sort your daughter out. Threatening to killer herself."
When she discovered that it was Camila, not Brayden, who had sent the text, Teresa was in a state of disbelief.
Renae's parents Teresa and Mark. Image: The Australian Women's Weekly
The Marsden family. Image: The Australian Women's Weekly
"We said from day one, 'Something's not right here'," Teresa said. Image: The Australian Women's Weekly
But the act of catfishing – using fake persona to lure someone into a relationship – is not an offence."Catfishing is not a crime. That's the tragedy in all this," Mark says.
It took seven long years, but in March the Marsden family finally got a hearing before NSW Deputy Coroner Elaine Truscott.
Camila does not deny being "Brayden", but she says he was a character she and Renae created.
"It was a joint idea we had together," she told the court.
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But the court also heard Brayden told Renae on August 5 that they should take a break, and then she later called Goulburn Prison.
Council assisting Sasha Harding said it was the messages Renae received from "Brayden" that sealed her fate.
"Camila was able, via Brayden, to have complete dominance and control over Renae's emotional life," she said.
The court heard Camila's attachment to Renae had been obsessive and possessive.
One email Camila sent to Renae when they were still in school was read to the court.
"I swear to god kid, you r going no where, do you understand … You hate me, I'll still love you, run away, chase you, you hide I'll hunt you down … I'm too in love with u and too obsessed with you and crazy about you baby, it's forever."
The coroner is due to deliver her findings in the matter in April.
Read our full interview with Renae Marsden's family in the new issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now.

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