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Real Life

TRUE CRIME: The story of Jody Harris, Australia's greatest con-woman

Not only was Jody Harris staying ahead of the cops, she was sleeping with them too.

By As told to Take 5
Jody Harris got out of her new Lexus and walked into the Melbourne boutique, dripping with expensive jewellery and dressed in immaculate designer clothes.
She got chatting to the owner, Nova Gordon.
"I'm the manager of a seafood business," Jody said, holding a dress in front of her as she looked in the mirror.
After spending $600, she invited Nova for coffee.
It was the most expensive coffee Nova would ever drink.
Nova Gordon, one of Harris' victims.
Later, the businesswoman discovered her driving licence was missing from her purse.
By then, it had been used to gain access to Nova's bank accounts.
Tens of thousands of dollars had been stolen.
Far from being a wealthy customer, designer-clad Harris was a thief.
Soon, she'd become one of the most wanted women in Australia.
She'd had a tough childhood.
Her mum had married Queensland rugby league star, Joe Kilroy, and they were both later imprisoned for drug trafficking.
Harris was just 15 when she befriended the officers at a Melbourne police station, telling them she was 20 years old.
Tens of thousands of dollars had been stolen from Nova's bank accounts.
She asked one out and, to seal the deal, sent him a photo of herself in a black lacy bra.
They started a relationship and the officer only discovered his girlfriend's true age when she crashed his car and confessed.
He ended the relationship and, to protect her and himself, told the insurance company he'd been driving.
But the scam was uncovered and he lost his job. Disgraced, he moved overseas.
The officer only discovered his girlfriend's true age when she crashed his car and confessed.
Harris's thefts soon landed her in jail.
When she was 19, she was described as an "incorrigible thief" in the Queensland Supreme Court during an appeal hearing.
Despite her rapidly growing criminal career, Harris seemed to be obsessed with the police.
Back in Melbourne she managed to convince police she was a visiting interstate undercover officer by producing a police badge she had stolen.
Years later, detectives in Victoria, NSW and Queensland became aware of a woman travelling between the states, befriending other women, stealing identities and emptying bank accounts.
They didn't know it then, but they were all pursuing the same woman.
Harris fooled everyone.
Around this time she met Andrew Twining on a dating site.
Andrew was a Victorian policeman and Harris told him she was a Virgin Airways hostess.
Andrew was smitten with his new girlfriend.
The lovers even got matching tattoos – her name on his right bottom cheek and his name on her wrist.
Andrew's new love told him she was working when she disappeared for days on end.
And in her own way she was.
Harris with her unsuspecting boyfriend, Andrew Twining.
Carrying Louis Vuitton luggage, hiring luxury cars and staying in five-star hotels, Harris flitted between states carrying out frauds.
On a business class Qantas flight between Melbourne and Brisbane she sat next to a flight attendant named Leah.
After the flight, Leah discovered her driver's licence was missing as well as $22,000 from her account.
While Leah had been in the toilet, Harris had stolen the licence.
Just using the licence, Harris convinced ANZ bank tellers she was Leah and withdrew money from her account on five separate occasions.
Harris took money from Leah's account on five separate occasions.
Once, a teller asked Harris to confirm her date of birth.
Unable to remember Leah's details, Harris just said, "It's on my licence."
The teller then handed over the cash.
In Sydney, Harris went to the aid of a woman who'd fallen over and hit her head on the kerb.
"I'm a doctor," she said and took the woman to hospital, relieving her of her driver's licence on the way.
Assuming the identities of at least six people, Harris splashed out on matching pink bags, shoes, a sequinned vest, $500 hair extensions, designer jeans and a diamond TAG Heuer watch worth $4000.
Tempted by a $1650 bichoodle pup, she bought the designer dog, too.
Harris had dozens of stolen documents.
In Queensland, her haul included $70,000 worth of cash and goods.
All the while, Andrew Twining was blissfully unaware of his girlfriend's exploits. It was his colleagues in the Victoria police who uncovered her true identity while Andrew was on a cruise with his parents.
Harris went on the run, taunting officers with phone calls and photos of herself.
"She has thrown out the challenge in no uncertain terms," said Senior Sergeant, Glenn Davies.
"It's like a scenario from the Leonardo DiCaprio film, Catch Me If You Can."
The hit movie followed the true story of Frank Abagnale, a notorious American conman who posed as a lawyer, doctor, pilot and professor during
a jet-set life funded by cheque fraud.
From then on, Harris became known as the 'Catch Me If You Can Thief'.
Detectives contacted Andrew on the cruise ship. He told officers everything he knew about Harris and agreed to help them set a trap for her when he returned to Australia.
Police officers swooped in.
Meanwhile, officers continued the chase. But somehow, she always managed to keep a step ahead of them.
Once, they arrived at a hotel minutes after she'd checked out.
When Andrew Twining returned home, he called Harris and asked her to meet him. As she got in his car in Sydney, officers swooped.
Finally, she faced Sydney's Central Local Court and admitted to numerous identity theft and fraud charges.
She'd stolen $175,000 from 33 victims in NSW.
Magistrate Allan Moore sentenced Harris to just four years, with a non-parole period of three-and-half.
After that, Harris faced the Victorian County Court.
There she was jailed for five years and nine months, effectively adding nine months to her NSW sentence. With time already served, she'd be paroled within two years.
Police finally caught up with Harris.
"She's a thief. That's all she is. She's a simple thief," said her victim, Nova Gordon.
Later on parole, Harris had to go to Brisbane Magistrates Court over her Queensland crime spree.
She admitted to 116 fraud, forgery and theft charges and was given a suspended sentence of 12 months.
The court heard Harris was living with her mum and working as a cleaner for a motorhome hire company.
Her victims could at least take some comfort in that.
Cleaning chemical toilets in motorhomes would certainly be a tough adjustment for the snobbish jet-setting thief.

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