How Unrelenting Catfish Schemes Led to Fatal Suicide

Catfished is a term used to describe a deceptive activity where a person creates a fake identity on a social network account, targeting a specific victim for abuse, deception, harassment, stalking, or fraud, including romance scams, whether it is for financial gain or, to compromise a victim in some way.

Catfishing can also be used as a tactic to cyberbully or prey on individuals while using a fictitious identity. These catfish ploys have also been linked to several suicides.

Table of Contents

The Lydia Abdelmalek Catfishing Case

Lydia Abdelmalek used the identities of former Home and Away star Lincoln Lewis and British actor Danny Mac to lure women into communicating before stalking and harassing them. One of Lydia’s victims took her own life after experiencing constant harassment by the 32-year-old, who showed intimate photos of the woman to her father.

County Court Judge Claire Quin found Abdelmalek had been “persistent and malicious” in her stalking of her victims, having a “cruel and brutal” impact on them and their families.

Judge Quin said Abdelmalek had created a “web of false characters” across multiple devices and accounts, making it challenging for law enforcement agencies to trace and detect her offending.

“It is almost impossible when one considers the volume of material accumulated in her devices and use of that material for her stalking activities how else she occupied her time over that period other than engaging in this conduct,” Judge Quin said.

Judge Quin said Abdelmalek had likely spent thousands of hours secretly stalking her victims and needed to be deterred from engaging in this conduct again.

Abdelmalek assumed various aliases to stalk numerous people for about four years.

She has repeatedly denied any involvement in the stalking, telling the court she had been hacked and she, too, was a catfish victim—a claim disputed by cyber experts.

The Renae Marsden Catfish Case

Camila Zeidan and Renae Marsden had been friends for a long time. Camila wanted an intimate relationship with Renae, but she preferred men. Over the years, Camila attempted to dominate Renae’s life and was abusive, displaying signs of extreme jealousy and possessiveness. She stalked Renae and showed up unexpectedly in places where Renae worked and hung out with friends. Even though Renae attempted to end their friendship many times, Camila never gave up her pursuit and stalking behavior. Camila was determined to have Renae all to herself and would lie and concoct schemes to achieve her selfish goal. She would create a fake male identity to lure Renae into her trap.

Her friend Camila had shown her a photograph of a man she might be interested in. Renae began a relationship through text messaging and Facebook with a man whom she had never met in person nor spoken with on the phone. Shortly after their relationship began, the man was in trouble and had been imprisoned.

Nevertheless, Renae believed the man was real, and for nearly two years, she communicated with this person. She was pre-occupied and constantly texting on her phone and fell in love with a fictitious man. She was led to believe that they would marry after he was released from prison. However, it didn’t work out that way.

Renae Marsden ended her life after the termination of a relationship with a person whose identity and intent were, unbeknown to her, a fabrication created and perpetrated to exercise coercion and control over her by a friend who engaged in conduct known as Catfishing.

According to an investigation, Renae died of fatal fall injuries from the cliff known as The Gap at Jacob’s Ladder Reserve Watsons Bay in Sydney, NSW. CCTV showed her walking in the area, using her cell phone, and easing down the clifftop. However, after multiple search efforts, her body was never recovered. It is assumed that her body was swept out to sea.

Renae’s parents requested an inquiry into a possible catfishing scheme perpetrated upon her daughter by a jealous and obsessed girlfriend.

Catfish Inquest 2020 Findings

How Renae was Catfished by Her Friend Camila

Renae had told her mother Teresa that Camila had introduced her to a boy she liked called Brayden. They had begun texting each other.

Camila Zeidan engaged in the creation of a communication on Renae’s Facebook between herself and Brayden apparently so that Renae would be assured that Camila didn’t have a problem with Renae going out with her ex-boyfriend Brayden and Brayden didn’t have a problem with Camila being Renae’s best friend.

Camila would later notify her that Brayden was serving a sentence of imprisonment for a driving offense in which his best friend Richie had died. Renae told her mother that Brayden was a prisoner in Goulburn jail, NSW, and that she was unable to visit him because he had chosen to forfeit his visitation rights to serve a shorter sentence. She said Camila had contacted Brayden’s lawyer and arranged for him to receive a mobile phone while in prison. With the phone, Brayden and Renae communicated via text messages and Facebook most days. He even contacted Teresa in December 2011 to introduce himself and reassure Teresa that he and Renae would see how things went when he was released.

In early 2012, Renae told her mother she loved Brayden. Sometimes Renae would orally speak to Brayden, and he would reply by text messages because, as he explained to her, he wasn’t permitted to possess a mobile telephone in prison. If someone heard him speaking on the phone, he would get into trouble.

In January 2012, Renae and Camila attended Bondi Ink together, where Renae received a tattoo of the name “B Spiteri” on the right side of her chest. The relationship between Renae and Brayden was emotionally intense and challenging. Brayden would express jealousy to Renae about the people she was spending time with. This intensity is demonstrated by the fact that from March 2013 to June 2013, there were over 11 thousand text messages between them, which does not include Facebook communications, of which there were many.

Most communications’ content is unknown, but it is evident that Brayden had a Facebook page in February 2012 but abandoned it after about a month. During that time, he sent messages to Camila and other friends of Renae, including Angus.

Camila created a Facebook account for Brayden, but by mid-February 2012, it had created much discord with Renae because he was sending material to her friends. Camila closed or stopped using the page by the end of February 2012. It is difficult to gauge what was happening with Renae and Camila, but after Valentine’s Day, Renae and Brayden were not getting on then improved in March. When Camila went on holiday, it was difficult for her to maintain the Brayden Renae relationship, so Brayden would become indisposed.

In April 2012, while Camila was away, Brayden was required to have surgery and thus could not contact Renae.

In May 2012 Teresa told Renae that she thought that Brayden was rude and arrogant and felt that it was not a good relationship to be in. Renae said that she would not continue the relationship but that she would remain friends with him to give him support. However, the relationship likely continued, with Renae expecting that Brayden would be released in August 2012 so that she and Brayden could continue their relationship in the physical sense.

In September 2012, Renae took an overdose of medication. Three days later, she told her mother what she had done and that she was vomiting and unable to eat and drink. Teresa drove Renae to the emergency department hospital, where she was attended to and discharged. The notes record that “boyfriend spent a year in jail and was out on parole. The boyfriend had a fight with his father after being out of jail, his father pressed charges, and the boyfriend is back in jail for 2 years, in Goulburn prison. Patient is “upset” as she doesn’t have any contact with boyfriend. Has not been “mentally stable.” Says work is a “stress” “Boss” told me few days ago he loves me.” Feels confused. She reported her mood as 4/10 but denied self-harm ideas.” The notes also indicate that Renae regretted the episode, that she was “happy to be alive with no serious fatal consequences.”

It is also unclear whether Camila had a boyfriend in 2012 or whether she became enmeshed with the Brayden identity when Renae became involved with Ian in October 2012. Camila’s mental health deteriorated.

It appears that Renae and Brayden’s relationship ended to the extent that Renae became involved with her work colleague Ian. Renae would stay overnight with Ian 1 or 2 nights a week at his place, and they would go out together on weekends and at night. Ian said that Renae changed her phone number so she would not be harassed by Camila. The incident that had precipitated Renae’s changing telephone numbers occurred when she and Camila were with a group of friends at a Casino, and Camila pushed and hit Renae. Renae called Ian, who then picked her up from Darling Harbour.

However, Renae kept in contact with Brayden, and he appeared to know she was seeing Ian as he would send Ian threatening text messages. Ian and Renae became engaged in January 2013, but the communications between Renae and Brayden continued, and by March 2013, Ian gave Renae an ultimatum to choose to be with him or to be with Brayden. Renae chose Brayden—a man she had never met in person.

After Renae left Ian to be in a relationship with Brayden in March 2013, she and Ian maintained friendly communication, and shortly after they separated, Ian saw Renae and Camila dining together while he was at the same restaurant. They did not speak, but after she left, Renae sent a text to Ian inviting him to catch up at a nearby hotel. He did so, but Camila became very upset, so she and Renae left shortly afterward. Renae later told Ian that on the drive home, Camila hit her on the back of the head and pulled her hair.

On March 23, 2013, Brayden told Renae he would know when court was in a few weeks. Three days later, he tells her he has a meeting to talk about the options and that she had to support him when he chose the option. Renae tells him whatever option gets him home the sooner, and then he reminds her that he still has his court case and it’s not until then, so he is selecting that.

Camila had to manage difficulties that would arise, such as Renae wanting to send a gift to Brayden for his birthday. Brayden told Renae to save the present until he was released. Renae told him it was something he could use in there, but he said he warned her that he would say no, especially now that he would return to court soon.

Renae’s relationship with Camila was fraught, evidenced by the few telephone extraction reports from Renae’s telephone. A letter sent by Renae to Camila for her birthday on March 28 expresses her gratitude to Camila accepting Renae’s relationship with Brayden and Renae hoping that Camila will find someone with equal measure.

On April 26, 2013, Camila advised Renae not to do anything to lose Brayden, such as if she didn’t know what was going on, not to push it, to believe him have some faith in him, and if it is too hard to walk away if she loves him and when he is out (of gaol), he will come and get her and for her not to go looking for him as things can go wrong and get worse. Camila warns Renae, “See, anything you do can wreck his whole entire case, so just leave it for him to work out and shit.”

In early May, Renae was stressed about money and finding a job, and on May 8, she secured a position.  On May 15, Renae complained to Brayden that he was using too much data on his phone as she had to pay weekly to put credit on her sim card. She told him that she would get a new SIM card, and it would be in her name and not Camila’s.

On June 5, 2013, there must have been another argument because Renae sent Camila a text saying that it was best for both of them at the point where it was going nowhere and wished Camila the best holiday. Camila replied that she would like to see Renae before she went and that Renae could come to soccer. She wanted Renae to have time and not be uptight, and they had a lot of issues between them. Renae agreed and said she would come to soccer sometimes and she would see Camila before she left. They didn’t give each other much time because there was continuing dialogue over the next couple of days, which degraded into more arguing when Camila texted, “How would u feel if I mentioned Brayden in everything?” Renae replied, “Camila, you always do.” The hurt and angst were about priorities and best friends.

Ten minutes later, Camila started texting as Brayden to manipulate and monitor Renae.

On June 18, 2013, Renae tells Brayden she is going to start to break away from Camila, and Brayden tells her that he is sick of Renae being upset over Camila and he needs her to make a choice. This likely marks the beginning of the end of Renae’s relationship with Camila, but little does she know that it also marks the beginning of the end of her relationship with Brayden. Renae changed to a new phone on June 19, 2013, but the contents of her communications with Camila and Brayden from this point are unknown.

What Was Camila’s Motive for the Catfish Scheme?

The evidence demonstrates that Camila Zeidan’s motive was likely not so that she could harass or intimidate Renae but rather so that Camila could keep Renae for herself to the exclusion of all others. The evidence establishes that Renae preferred being in relationships with men and that she did not want to be in a relationship with Camila but wanted to be her best friend. Camila was unable to tolerate Renae having an intimate relationship. She would become jealous, possessive, and abusive. She complained to Renae that she did not like being second-best. She would abuse Renae’s partners and urge Renae to break up with them.

This behavior harmed Renae’s relationships and her friendship with Camila, causing her to withdraw from Camila. In response, Camila would follow her, send her multitudes of text messages, and pressure Renae to spend more time with her. Renae did not want to be in a relationship with Camila, regardless of their respective families’ thoughts. Renae considered Camila to have been her best friend, albeit a difficult one, and had made it clear that there would always be a man with whom Renae would be with, which didn’t mean that she couldn’t see Camila.

By Catfishing Renae, Camila could have some kind of intimate relationship she wanted with her, as well as an ongoing friendship with her. Renae was intimate with Brayden, including phone sex, sending him videos and photographs. Text messages Renae sent to Brayden demonstrate her frustration and disappointment that Brayden would not send her videos and pictures of himself.

On New Year’s Eve, Renae sent Brayden a photograph of her in a red dress she was wearing to go out. He texted back that she should cover up as the dress was too revealing and she better not cheat on him. Throughout the night, Renae was bombarded by text messages from Brayden, and then Camila sent texts telling Renae that she was upsetting Brayden and she better not cheat on him.

Angus sent Renae a Happy New Year message, and Renae told Camila. The following day, Brayden texted Renae, saying that the relationship was over because she had cheated on him with Angus. That night, there were Facebook communications with Brayden, Renae, and Stephanie in which Brayden, amongst other things, lamented about being in jail.

Sometimes, Angus sent posts to Brayden asking him questions about himself, which Brayden answered in vague terms. Angus noted that Brayden’s profile was similar to Camila’s in that they liked the same hobbies and interests. Brayden’s Facebook was closed after about a month, and Brayden would send messages to Angus using Renae’s account.

Angus was well aware that Camila could construct social media communications to misrepresent reality; for example, she forwarded messages she claimed she had received from a cousin that had been written by Angus, claiming that he was using Renae for sex. The messages had not been written by Angus, and Jamie had not received them, nor had she sent them to Camila.

The content of many Facebook and text messages demonstrates that Renae believed Brayden to be real and that she was not “together” with Camila. Indeed, Renae believed that Camila had been going out with Brayden in 2011, and in May 2012, Renae was Facebook messaging a man called Martin, whom she was supporting while he was trying to date Camila.

These communications indicate that Renae was very much of the view that Brayden was not only real but was certainly not Camila. In April 2012, while using Facebook, Teresa ‘liked’ a post generated by Angus. A short time later, Renae called Teresa in an agitated manner, stating that Brayden was abusing her because Teresa was still communicating with Angus.

Teresa then received a text message from Brayden stating she was an “unfit mother liking her daughter’s ex-boyfriends’ posts” and other derogatory comments.

In May 2012, Teresa spoke with Renae, stating she did not like Brayden, describing him as rude and arrogant. Renae agreed to end the relationship; however, she told her mother she wanted to remain friends with him.

In June 2012, Renae told Stephanie that Brayden might be out of jail soon. Stephanie told her that he was not real, but Renae insisted that he was. In August, Renae had also told their cousin that Brayden was out and she had had coffee with him. When Stephanie asked Renae about this, Renae told her that he was still in prison, and she had just said that so that when he was actually released, she could say that she had been with him in person for a longer time to reassure her parents.

Renae and Camila’s friendship was difficult, and Camila used Brayden to counsel and advise Renae on how to deal with Camila so as not to make her angry, repay Camila money, or negotiate an argument. Finally, there is evidence that throughout their friendship, since at least 2008, Renae experienced abuse, including physical abuse, from Camila. In July 2013, Renae ended their friendship, and she wrote to Brayden, telling him how much better she felt having done so.

Though Renae left Ian to be with Brayden in March 2013, text messages indicate it was far from easy. The first week or so in March, they argued because Brayden was communicating with Stephanie about Angus, which antagonized Renae. Then, there is a loving period until an argument over Brayden deciding he didn’t want to run his own business when he was released from prison and when Renae was angry that she was accused of money grabbing and being greedy. Usually, the resolutions are settled, with Renae being apologetic and soothing.

To add to the disturbing features of this case, after Renae had separated from Ian to be with Brayden, Camila was maintaining and escalating the Brayden relationship with Renae, leading her to believe that they would marry when he was released from jail. While doing this, Camila became involved with a man called Michael, whom she later married.

Despite the evidence contradicting Camila’s position she would not concede at any time during her testimony that the creation and perpetuation of Brayden was done without the knowledge of Renae. Though she said they created Brayden together so she and Renae could be together there is absolutely no evidence that they were ever intimately involved during the period of Brayden. Camila did not claim that there were any specific occasions where she was with Renae to be intimate but just said they were. Renae’s communications with Brayden demonstrate quite clearly that this is untrue, and indeed, Renae did not see Camila particularly often, at least in 2013.

The evidence demonstrates that by having Renae in a relationship with Brayden, Camila freed herself from experiencing the jealousy and possessiveness she would feel whenever Renae was in a relationship with a man. By being the fictitious Brayden, Camila experienced an intimate relationship with Renae despite Renae being unaware that this was occurring. Renae spent more time as a friend with Camila because Camila’s behavior had improved as she no longer needed to compete against one of Renae’s boyfriends and she did not need to break them up.

From Renae’s perspective, Camila had finally been able to accept that Renae was in love with someone else so she could retain some kind of friendship with her, though it was marked by a degree of instability and abuse. Ultimately, if Camila was catfishing Renae, she was doing so to exercise coercion and control in both aspects of Renae’s life—as Brayden’s girlfriend and as Camila’s best friend.

Events Leading Up to Renae’s Suicide

Renae had left her employment and started another job, and her new work colleagues were all familiar with her relationship with the so-called Brayden. Renae and Brayden continued communicating. Renae did not become involved with anyone else, and Brayden allegedly remained in Goulburn Prison.

In July 2013, there was a month-long period where they did not communicate. Brayden had a court case, the outcome of which Renae hoped would result in Brayden being released from prison. Although Brayden could not communicate with Renae during this month, she maintained sending him numerous daily texts and she told work colleagues how difficult it was for her not being able to have contact with him.

On August 5, 2013, Brayden finally replied to a text message Renae sent, and they started communicating. Shortly after midday, Renae told a work colleague that Brayden was being blunt. At about 1 p.m., while Renae and Joseph were walking to a café for lunch, Renae started crying and shaking. She showed Joseph one of the text messages Brayden had sent, which said, “I think I need a break and so do you.” Other than that one text message Joseph read on Renae’s telephone, the content of all the other 91 text messages between Renae and Brayden was not recovered by police.

Renae spent the lunchtime crying, and the café staff provided her with tissues. She told Joseph she wanted to go home. They returned to the office, and Renae left work early, telling him she was going to telephone Goulburn Prison to speak to Brayden. Renae left work in her car. The telephone records show that at 2:44 p.m., Renae made a 90-second telephone call to Goulburn prison.

After Renae had telephoned Goulburn prison, she texted Brayden, and he replied, after which Renae sent up to 9 text messages over the next 5 minutes, none of which Brayden answered.

There is no evidence of what she was told by the prison, but it is known that she did not speak with Brayden. After her call to Goulburn prison, Renae had two more exchanges probably related to her call to the prison.

Renae had arrived home early from work, and her mother could see that she was upset. She asked her what was wrong, and Renae told her, “Nothing is wrong, Mum.” Renae went to her room to remove her makeup and change out of her work clothes, which was her usual routine.

Though what was said between Renae and Brayden is only known by Camila Zeidan, an insight into Camila’s mood and tone at the time is evident in Bradyen’s text messages to Renae’s mother, Teresa, from 3:15 p.m. to 3:27 p.m.

Brayden: Sort your daughter out threatening to kill herself. Then, Brayden texts Renae.

Teresa: Please explain to me why a young woman would want to kill herself ????

Brayden: Ask her yourself. Then, Brayden texts Renae

Brayden: Maybe explain to me why you never got her help last time

Teresa: Have you ever thought that you are the problem. Seems like it all comes back to your feet. I got her help looks like…

Brayden: I’m the problem am I? Have u ever thought u have neglected her when she clearly needs help

Teresa: If there really is a GOD out there he will answer my prayers, time will tell

Brayden: He only answers people that are genuine

Teresa: Clearly that’s why you are there and I am here

Brayden: Yeah exactly and that’s why he hasn’t answered your prayers

Brayden: I no I’m not a good person but I must be something if your daughter loves me

Brayden texted Renae and she responded but he did not reply.

Teresa went to Renae’s room and asked her if this was true, and she said, “Don’t be stupid. I would never do that.” Teresa showed Renae the text from Brayden, and Renae told her, “Mum, you don’t have to worry about him anymore. I finally found out what he is all about.” Teresa asked what she meant by that, and Renae replied, “Don’t worry, Mum, it’s all over.” Brayden sent some more texts to Teresa, the last being that Renae loved him. Then, he then sent Renae a text, and she replied. This was about 3:30 p.m.

Teresa had left to pick up her three younger children from the bus stop, and they returned home. Teresa saw that Renae was getting dressed and applying her makeup. Renae told Teresa she was going out to dinner with friends. Teresa then took two children to swimming lessons and asked Renae to take the youngest child to their grandmother, who lived in a flat on their property. Renae told her she wouldn’t be late.

Call Charge Records indicate that Renae’s phone used the internet between 3:47 and 4:30 p.m. She was likely using Facebook. Renae left the house, taking her little sister to her grandmother’s home.

At 4:40 p.m., Renae sent another text message to Brayden, but he did not reply to that either. She then drove to Watsons Bay, arriving there at about 5.20 p.m.

CCTV footage shows Renae at The Gap when she sent a text message to Brayden at 5.22 pm. Renae walked around the area and sat down on the brick wall of the gun turret. She sent Brayden up to five more texts, and he sent her a text. Renae sent up to 3 more texts to Brayden, but he did not reply.

Renae sent a text to Camila. Renae sent a loving text to her mother, Teresa.

While Teresa was at the swimming pool, she received text messages from Renae at 5:49 p.m.

Though Camila didn’t call Renae, she had sent Renae a text message as Brayden at 5:51.56.

At 5:51 p.m., Renae climbed over the fence at Jacob’s Ladder and looked over the edge. While sitting there, Renae received a text from Brayden and responded to it. Brayden did not reply.

CCTV shows Renae throwing her telephone over the cliff at 5:54 p.m., and she moved further down the cliff and slipped away. The final text Camila sent as Brayden to Renae was at 5:55:45, by which time Renae was gone. Brayden sent another text, which coincides with CCTV footage of Renae disappearing from the cliff face at 5:56 p.m. Telephone records indicate that Renae’s telephone stopped at 5:58 p.m.

Teresa returned home, picked up her youngest child and took her to confirmation class and then went to a friend’s house. She showed her friend Renae’s messages, and she suggested Teresa call the police.

The Initial Police Investigation

The police arrived at Renae’s home. After they left, Teresa texted Camila at 8:18 p.m., “Hi have you heard from Renae?” Camila texted back, “She messaged me a while ago why is everything ok.” Camila then called Renae’s phone, but it was switched off. Camila sent another text to Teresa: “I can come and we can go look for her.” Camila later told Teresa that she had received a text from Renae at 5:47 p.m. in which Renae said that she loved her and was sorry.

Camila Zeidan drove with her mother to the Marsden home and picked up Teresa. They drove to places where Camila suggested Renae might be, including Dural McDonalds and a house in Glenhaven, which Camila identified as where Brayden’s sister lived. However, Camila made an excuse as to why they could knock on the door and make inquiries.

They could not locate Renae. The police contacted Renae’s mobile phone service provider and learned that her mobile was switched off at 5:58 p.m. in the vicinity of Old South Head Road Vaucluse.

Local police conducted a patrol of the area known as The Gap to look for Renae and her car. At about 8:45 p.m. that night, the police located Renae’s car on Military Road, Watson’s Bay, about 150 meters from the steps at The Gap. A land and air search was conducted, but the police could not locate any signs of Renae.

The police search continued the following morning with Renae’s parents in attendance. Teresa located Renae’s shoes near an old gun turret on a path from Military Road to Jacob’s Ladder Reserve. Another aerial search was conducted without success. Three divers searched the sea bottom near the rock foreshore opposite Jacobs Ladder Reserve. They noted that there was a swirling current flowing seaward. They did not locate anything. Another dive search was conducted the following day, including further out to sea, and a Water Police vessel carried out sea surface searches without success.

Renae’s car was towed to a police holding yard. Located in the vehicle was a Valentine’s card and Renae’s wallet inside, which was a photograph montage of Brayden and Renae and the words “I love you baby,” which bore on the reverse side and indicated that it had been printed in June 2012. The police also located an iPhone with a pink cover. This was not the cell phone Renae had been using recently or that day, but did contain communications between herself and Brayden throughout their relationship.

Teresa desperately wanted to speak with Brayden. She sent him a text message, “Where r u? I want to speak to u. I want answers now.” A few hours later, she sent another, “Answer me please. You can’t do this.” Brayden never replied.

Camila visited Teresa and told her that she shouldn’t blame Brayden. She said that he had spoken to her on Monday night (when Renae died), and he was upset that people were blaming him.

The police commenced an investigation, initially concentrating on locating Renae and then quickly focusing on Renae’s relationship with Brayden.

Who Was Brayden?

Camila Zeidan had initially shown Renae a photograph of herself and an alleged former boyfriend, Brayden. Camila convinced Renae to begin a relationship with him.

The fictitious Brayden was from a wealthy family who had attended Kings School. He claimed to be a builder of high-rise buildings. By the time Renae became involved with Brayden, he was in Goulburn prison, being responsible for the death of his friend Richie in a motorcycle accident.

Renae told Ian that Brayden had a stepmother who had died, his father lived in Mosman, and he had a brother, Michael, and a sister. Renae had told Ian that she had met all the family and understood Brayden to be very powerful, having taken over his father’s construction business. Ian thought it difficult to believe but said that Renae was convinced that Brayden existed. It is unknown whether Renae had told Ian that she had met Brayden’s family to deflect criticism of her belief or whether Camila had introduced her to or put forward a family she said was Brayden’s. This is possible given that on the night Renae died, Camila took Teresa to a house that she claimed to be where Brayden’s sister lived.

It was later discovered that Camila used a photograph of a man she did not know. She had taken a picture with a guy while out one day pretending to be his girlfriend by laying her head on his shoulders. When the police tracked down the guy in the photograph, he was unaware of what was going on and did not know either of the woman. Camila had created a fictitious name and used another person’s photo for her scheme.

Was Camila Zeidan Pretending to be Brayden?

After obtaining telephone records and speaking with Renae’s family and friends, the police determined that Brayden Spiteri did not exist at all. Camila Zeidan had assumed the identity of Brayden Spiteri, and by using SMS, she texted on a mobile phone, and via communications on Facebook, she engaged Renae in an intimate relationship spanning nearly two years.

Leading Senior Constable Georgina Robinson spoke with Camila and made an appointment to speak with her. She asked Camila to make notes about her friendship with Renae, her knowledge of Brayden, and the text messages and communications she had with Renae in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. On August 25, 2013, Camila arrived at the police station for a pre-arranged meeting. She provided a 2-page handwritten statement to LSC Robinson.

It started with “Renae msged me 5.47 – I’m sorry for everything you will always be my best friend I hope one day you can forgive me I love you xoxo.”

Camila’s notes did not make mention of Brayden or any communications he had with Renae. During her meeting, Camila described Brayden’s appearance and told her Renae never spoke about her relationships and that Renae’s parents didn’t let Renae be friends with her.

At the end of the meeting, Leading Senior Constable Robinson said to Camila, “I want you to be honest with me; the telephone call logs that I have here in front of me suggest to me that you are Brayden, are you?” Camila replied, “No, I know that a lot of people think I am; everyone is against me. I wish I was where Renae is now, wherever she is. I just want to have the peace she is feeling now; we could be together. Do you think she is really gone?”

The following day, Camila was admitted to a hospital as her family was highly concerned that she was at risk of serious self-harm. The hospital records form part of the evidence, and in notes of the consultations with Camila, there is no reference whatsoever to Brayden. Camila was discharged on August 30, 2013.

On September 23, 2013, the police executed a search warrant to locate the mobile telephone Camila had used solely for the purpose of Brayden. The police did not locate the phone or the sim card, though they did seize other items, including letters Renae had written to Camila when they were at school and a letter Renae had written to Brayden in an envelope that had been ripped up and deposited in a rubbish bin. They also found a photograph of Brayden with Camila on Camila’s mobile telephone.

After searching Camila’s bedroom, she was sitting on the couch. Senior Constable Walker-Lear introduced herself and said to Camila: “Is there anything you want to talk to me about? I am happy to listen.”

Camila said, “I was sending the text messages to Renae before I left for America in March… Renae asked me to. She wanted me to pretend that I was Brayden.” Senior Constable Walker-Lear asked, “Why would Renae want you to pretend to be Brayden?” and Camila replied, “I don’t know. I just did it because she wanted me to. I didn’t do anything else. What’s going to happen to me?” Senior Constable Walker-Lear replied, “At this stage, Camila, we are just interested in finding out what has happened to Renae.”

Camila failed to tell Senior Constable Walker-Lear that she had sent texts as Brayden after she returned home from her holiday, specifically on the day that Renae died. The police attempted to speak further with Camila, but she declined to be interviewed. Camila had disposed of the phone and sim card used by the fictitious Brayden, and without it, the police could not obtain evidence of the content of text messages as, at that time in 2013, the telephone service providers’ data expired after 7 days. The police had seized three of Camila’s phones and attempted to subject them to Cellbrite examination to download the contents. One Blackberry phone could not be accessed and was destroyed in the process, an iPhone, which Camila had taken on her trip overseas, and a Samsung, which is the phone she used for herself before and after her holiday.

Examining these telephone records provided limited information as Camila had already deleted many messages from the Samsung cell phone, including the last message Renae had sent her. None of the phones located by the police were used by Brayden; the phone for that purpose was a Blackberry bold touch.

Renae’s mobile telephone located in her car contained data up until June 19, 2013. The telephone was locked, and when a family friend used a program from the internet to download the contents, the information became scrambled. It was not until 2019, due to advances in technology, that the contents of Renae and Brayden’s text messages were able to be accessed. The communications between Renae and Brayden and Camila, at least up until June 2013, revealed the nature and progress of the relationship and contradicted Camila’s claim that Renae knew that Brayden was not a real person.

Renae’s family believes that her death was due to having been “catfished,” which is a term used to describe a deceptive activity where a person creates a fake identity on a social network account, usually targeting a specific victim for abuse, deception, or fraud including romance scams, whether it is for financial gain, to compromise a victim in some way or simply as a form of wish fulfillment.

If Renae discovered that her relationship with Brayden was but fiction and she took her own life as a consequence, the community might consider that Catfishing is an act that should be prohibited.

Even if Renae did not discover that Camila had committed the deception and was simply heartbroken because Brayden had ended the relationship, she had taken her life because of a person who did not exist.

Further Investigations

The Police Brief comprised numerous statements from Renae’s friends, family, work colleagues, and the police officers involved in the investigation. It also contained copies of Facebook messages, telephone call records, and text messages from Renae’s old phone relating to numbers used by Brayden, Camila, and Renae, CCTV footage, and hospital and police documents.

The examination attempted to elicit from Camila the content of Renae and Brayden’s communications and an explanation of her actions, such as why she deleted the text messages from that day.


Camila lied to Teresa when she said Brayden had spoken with her on the Monday night that Renae died. This lie was while Teresa, Mark, Camila, and Stephanie were sitting around the kitchen table. Teresa texted Brayden asking if he knew where Renae was and that he needed to talk and give answers to them. Camila said, “It is not Brayden’s fault. He is hurting as well”. Mark asked Camila how she knew that, and she replied that the night Renae went missing, Brayden had called her from a private number. She said he wouldn’t speak to anyone because everyone blamed him.

Camila could not answer how this was all going to end. Camila could have returned from America and let Brayden disappear into the thin air from which he came. Camila did not contact Renae and suggested they end their fiction because Renae was not part of the fiction. Camila did not contact Renae because Renae had ended their friendship by text and confirmed it by not attending soccer. After August 5, 2013, Camila displayed a deplorable lack of kindness to Renae’s family through the lies she told and continued, seeking to cast blame upon them for Renae’s unhappiness.

In Facebook messages written after Renae’s death, Camila posted, “…she messaged me saying id always be her best friend and everything and I went to call and her phone was off. I want to believe she has taken off and she is ok, but im not sure if that’s the truth. Claiming that she went to call Renae when she received the message is a lie. The only time Camila went to call Renae was 5 minutes after she had replied to Teresa. In the hospital notes, it is recorded she said that she received the message but did not understand it to be a goodbye message. This is difficult to accept given the exchanges that had occurred with Renae posing as Brayden and with her knowledge about how much Brayden meant to Renae.

The only reason I accept that Renae sent the message as Camila claims is not because I believe Camila, but because Renae likely did send a loving message to her friend because she had no idea that Camila was the very person who had Catfished her for 20 months.

There is no doubt that Renae Marsden believed that Brayden Spiteri was a real person with whom she had a strong connection and a deep love and was prepared to wait for him to be released from prison to continue her relationship.

Despite some people telling her he was not real, Renae believed he was, and as she told a work colleague, “If I didn’t think he was real I wouldn’t have left Ian.”

I do not think that Renae had been mentally disturbed thinking that a fantasy character that she had made up with Camila had become a real person.

There is no doubt that she would have been upset that Brayden did not want to continue the relationship after a month’s absence and after all of the effort she had put into the relationship, supporting him emotionally and dealing with having accidentally killed his best friend, being estranged from his family and needing her.

There is no evidence of what, if anything, Renae learned from her 90-second telephone call to Goulburn Prison. If she asked if she could speak to a prisoner by telephone, she would have been told that was impossible. If she asked if she could leave a message, she may have been put through to welfare to leave a message but that would likely take more than 90 seconds. If she had asked if they had a prisoner called Brayden Spiteri in the prison, she may have been told that no such prisoner was there. If she had asked if he had been released, she may have been told that there is no prisoner with such a name. I doubt that she asked those questions.

She rang Goulburn Prison to speak with Brayden and not find out if he was there because she never suspected for a moment that he was not there. What she discovered on that 90-second call, if anything, cannot be answered.

I have considered whether Renae learned that Brayden was not real and that she learned she had been Catfished by her best friend, Camila Zeidan. I am of the view that Renae likely did not learn of this.

Signs You Are Being Catfished

After spending a lot of time in online conversations and interactions, you may become emotionally involved, especially romantic interests. You’ll probably want to talk via phone or meet in person. If the other person makes excuses or says this is out of the question, rethink this relationship. Perhaps they agree to the meeting, only to bail at the last minute with a very compelling excuse. This is reasonable if it happens once. However, if it keeps happening, you can assume they’re not who they say they are.

RED FLAG: Within a short amount of time, they are in a dire situation and need money assistance right away. NO, NO, NO.

Cut off the relationship immediately. The other person may seem rudely persistent, which is another sign they have evil intentions. DO NOT go back and engage in conversations or text messages.

Change your online accounts. This might include completely deleting accounts and starting over again. Or it could simply require changing passwords and usernames so they can’t find you anymore.

If your online chatting spilled over into text messaging, it might be wise to get a new phone number.

Any personal information you shared with the catfisher is already out there, but you can make some changes to protect yourself for the future.

Catfishing Schemes

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How Unrelenting Catfish Schemes Led to Suicide