Is it possible that Joshua Rathmell had a false memory?

Here we are presenting information regarding how a false memory may be accidentally formed or placed through suggestions and cunning. We will also present how this specifically relates to Joshua Rathmell and his testimony.

Joshua Rathmell was the key witness used by the Crown.

Joshua walks through the park and witnesses an event.
Joshua pauses to talk to some people about the event.
Joshua observes the scene for a while.
Joshua goes to work. There is no way of knowing whether he spoke to anyone or was exposed to the news. It seems very likely that he would have indicated to some colleagues at work that he had observed the event.
Joshua calls the police 3 times and eventually speaks to the police and tells them
his story.
Joshua goes to police station and repeats the story face to face with the police and also responds to questions. Some of the questions the police pose are puzzling due to their suggestive nature. He is interrupted in full flow and stopped on the word “saw”. Almost as if he was about to say he saw “something” thrown or falling. He is asked if he saw a push or a jump, to which he responds negatively. This question is very troubling as it instantly indicates that a body was involved. Given that in his initial phone call to the police he indicated that he thought he saw a “junkie throwing rubbish” the question may have unduly influenced the rest of his statement.
He participates in a walk-through with the police in Hyde Park. At one point, he remarks how loud the ambient noise is. It is difficult to see the value of conducting the walk-through. If anything, given the level of interaction with the police in this way, could the walk-through have contributed greatly to creating a false memory?
Joshua re-tells his story for committal.
Joshua prepares for the trial.
The time lapse in between the actual event, the committal and the trial is quite large and the amount of media coverage at each stage has been widespread, frenzied and very negative towards Simon Gittany.

The expert on false memory, Dr. Kemp stated in his opinion that there was a good possibility that Joshua Rathmell had a false memory.

Recently in Palm Beach County, Florida, law enforcement started working to develop a consistent set of rules for eyewitnesses, hoping it will help to prevent false convictions. A new study finds that there may be good reason to question the memory of some eyewitnesses.

Jason Chan conducted a series of experiments to highlight the shortcomings of eyewitnesses and their memories. Specifically in relation to criminal cases, Chan theorises that an eyewitness who is asked to make a police statement about a crime may have his or her memory clouded by misinformation – possibly introduced accidentally by law enforcement, or through erroneous online accounts or news reports – by the time the witness is asked to provide testimony in court.

“There are many cases in which misinformation is introduced unknowingly to people,” said Chan, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State. “It could be police, or through friends, or a number of sources. And people can confuse their memories, even if it’s information not specifically pertaining to that witnessed case. For example, if you saw a bank robbery and later saw a movie depicting bank robberies, whatever you remember from that movie — which has nothing to do with the real-life case — can interfere with your ability to recall the real-life case. “So misinformation comes from all sorts of sources, especially nowadays with TV news reports trying to compete with people’s accounts on Twitter with what they just saw,” he continued. “Outlets are trying to compete with these Twitter feeds all the time, so they report something and don’t verify the source of the information.”

Eyewitness memory susceptible to misinformation after testing

Eyewitnesses play a key role in police investigations. But how likely is it that they remember everything correctly? Today the police place far too much emphasis on eyewitness accounts, according to experts.

In the interest of preserving the integrity of the memory of the events witnessed, it’s best that the crime is not discussed prior to giving a statement. Contrary to what one might believe, a person’s memory of an event is not improved by retelling the story. Instead, the risk of an incorrect account increases the more the story is retold and discussed.

“The most accurate witness statements come from people who have seen a crime and then write down what happened before they recount it or discuss it with anyone,” says Farhan Sarwar. However, it is quite unusual for witnesses to do this. On the contrary, many want to immediately discuss what they have seen. One example of how wrong they can be is the eyewitness descriptions of Anna Lindh’s murderer. Those who were there and saw the murderer were in agreement that he was wearing military clothing. When the pictures from the department store’s cameras were examined, it could be seen that he was wearing normal sports clothes.”

Eyewitnesses are not as reliable as one might believe

Distinguished Professor and memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, has demonstrated through her research that it is possible to induce false memories through suggestion.

Creating a False Memory
Formation of a False Memory
What is a False Memory


  1. Kathy says:

    It’s difficult to judge whether his statement could have been a “false memory” when you don’t show the statement! There are red flags for “false memory” statements such as elaborate, dramatic detail or the story expanding each time he/ she tells it. Perhaps you could present the statement and get an expert to analyse it for these red flags.

    • Moderator_3 says:

      Hi Kathy,

      You raise an interesting point. We will seek legal advice to see if we are allowed to upload the statement in full.

  2. Emma says:

    I thought Joshua Rathnell has stated that when he went to work that day, he was very shaken by what he’d seen and a colleague told him to write it down. Then after work he went to the police to make a statement. You’re saying in this blog that this is the ideal way to PREVENT “false memory”!!!

    • Moderator_3 says:

      Hi Emma,

      This is not true. Joshua Rathmell stated he went to work because he was “still trying to process what he saw”. Joshua Rathmell never stated he was shaken during either time he was cross-examined. Could you please provide the source for this information? Joshua Rathmell did not attend the police station after work, he went 3 days after the incident. Joshua Rathmell phoned the police station a few hours after leaving the scene and told the detective who he spoke to “Didn’t see a push. Didn’t see a jump, but I watched the body fall”.

  3. Wendy says:

    Yeah, Joshua shows up to work and says “I saw a suicide” and his friends say, “no it was her boyfriend throwing her out the window” So Joshua says: “Now I remember – she didn’t fall she was unloaded.”

    He said he saw a man unloading something over the balcony, then when he got closer, he asked someone if it was a body. Yes it was a body. He continues to work, processing the information and calls the police. He hasn’t ever embellished his original story – his first impression was it was SOMETHING, so an inanimate object. False memories usually have a lot more gratuitous detail.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi Wendy, the two council workers testified that Joshua Rathmell never spoke to them. We would say that a “muffled sound” becoming “Deranged Screams” and being compared to that of a junkie on an “Ice Bender” is an embellishment. Have you read the page on our site regarding the testimony that the student provided? The three other testimonies provided by witnesses contradict Joshua Rathmell’s. The description of “unloading” is also worth noting, some of the images presented on our show just how difficult this would be to do in the manner which Joshua described. Thank you for your comment.

      Additionally, Joshua also stated in his first statement that he did not see a jump, that he did not see a push, but he did see a body falling.

      • Georgia says:

        Well,maybe he spoke to someone else. Big deal. I notice Joshua Rathmell’s various statements are not reproduced on this site, so you expect us to take your word for it that there are valid inconsistencies. I’m surprised the defence lawyer didn’t manage to do that in the courtroom.
        The circumstantial evidence is pretty compelling: Lisa was telling people she needed to leave because she was afraid of Simon; she told people he was monitoring her so she had to be very secretive; he told people she had a secret and he was determined to find out what it was; when she first made an attempt to leave (giving clothes to a new acquaintance, which suggests she didn’t want to confide in someone who knew Simon) he found out, and the attempt was stopped; during her second attempt to leave which involved a photographed physical assault, and verified screaming for help from neighbours, she “mysteriously” died.
        Yes, it’s all circumstantial but it’s an unlucky series of events for an innocent man. It also fits the pattern seen constantly around Australia and other countries – a woman is most at risk in an abusive relationship when she attempts to leave. Another unlucky coincidence for this innocent man.
        In all the loving messages between Simon and Lisa where she apologises for having behavioural issues, does he ever apologise for HIS controlling behaviour? No.

        • Moderator_4 says:

          Hi Georgia,

          This is a big deal. Joshua clearly articulated that he spoke to two council workers who he asked “Mate is that a body?” to which one of them replied “Yes it came from that building”. This was before the council workers were found. After the council workers were found and Joshua Rathmell was asked about his conversation with them he steered away from the content. When the council workers were asked if someone had approached them and asked them anything they said no. One stated he thought someone had been hit by a car and the other stated that he thought it was a bird. Neither council worker knew that the body had fallen from the building.

          Lisa Harnum was never telling anyone she wanted to leave because she was terrified of Simon. Lisa actually wanted to stay with Simon, Michelle Richmond and Lisa Brown corroborated this. Lisa Brown was engaged because Lisa Harnum wanted to have a baby with Simon. Only Joan Harnum stated that Lisa Harnum wanted to leave, however the text messages show a different story. This text was sent by Lisa Harnum on the 20 June 2011 “I am sorry, mama, please don’t be upset with me. My heart always chooses love. I overreacted just to prove my point and it was proven and we were both taught a lesson. I know you are not happy. That is why I could not promise you what you asked me to promise you. (Presumably about leaving the relationship). My heart wasn’t in it, I’m not that strong, please don’t be disappointed in me.”

          Lisa Harnum did not give the clothes to Michelle Richmond because she wanted to leave. She did this because Michelle Richmond gives this advice to her clients as a “back up” plan in case they want to leave in the future. Michelle Richmond acknowledges this. Simon was monitoring Lisa Harnum’s text reasons for a few reasons. We are unable to disclose why as a few users have expressed disgust at us relaying this information in an attempt to character assassinate the victim. We would also like to add Lisa Harnum threatened to leave throughout the entire relationship. There is evidence of booked flights which are subsequently cancelled. One of which the flight is booked my Simon Gittany’s sister’s credit card. This was a flight booked by Lisa Harnum and booked by Simon Gittany’s sister credit card. This means that Simon provided Lisa an avenue to leave as there is no way she would have access to Simon Gittany’s sisters credit card. The reason Simon provided Lisa Harnum his sisters credit card was because Lisa Harnum disclosed to Simon that she did not have a credit card.

          Lisa also screamed for help on different occasions. One of those occasions was in June 2010 in the early start of their relationship. This was confirmed by Joan Harnum who stated she heard Lisa scream help on the phone. Georgia, have you seen all the messages between Simon and Lisa Harnum? They are LOVELY and full of love. There are only 5 or so rude in the space of a year and a half out of 4000 text messages. The following text was only 25 days before Lisa Harnums tragic death:

          Simon sent a text to Lisa on the 5th of July 2011 saying “You really are so special to me! Your heart is priceless & even the penguin picture is a reflection of your heart. I’m sorry if you get left out but I don’t leave the house or go see a friend to make you feel sad or lonely. I try & love you more than any man loves his girl because I really am in love with you & I know you have no real friends so I try & distract you from that by giving you more than 100%.”
          Lisa replied to Simon “I appreciate that baba. I just feel really lonely sometimes. Even when you are here an I let you do your thing on the computer and distract myself so I give you time for yourself. Why do you think I always come in and see you. I just want to be around you. I somethings think that being alone or feeling lonely is because I have done that to my mom. I am used to being alone alot but it doesn’t mean that I like it. Anyways, I know that you love me and love you and show you love just the same. Just be careful on Your bike okay. Focus on that now okay. I love you xoxo”

          Have you had a chance to listen to the Secret Recording made on Lisa’s iPhone? In the recording you will hear Lisa say to Simon “Maybe if I go home for a couple of months, maybe you will appreciate me more”. This recording was made in June 2011 (the month before the tragic incident).

          • Carol says:

            I’ve been to counsellors and life coaches before and if one of them gave me “standard” advice about packing some clothes in case I wanted to leave my husband, I would be flabbergasted! Then again, I’m in a happy stable marriage…

            The only time women tell other women to do this is when they are trying to leave a violent or abusive relationship. I’ve done it for friends before – those friends would yo-yo back and forth, saying how wonderful the guy was, and talk about the plans for the future, and then a few days later be stiff with terror again.

          • Moderator_4 says:

            Hi Carol/Zelda/Zoe/Laura,

            Michelle Richmond clearly articulated in her statement that Lisa did not want to leave Simon as he was so good to her. She said that Lisa was adamant she did not want to leave Simon. Michelle Richmond stated that Lisa had told her about their arguments and Michelle gave her advice to put her bags in storage as a “back up” plan. Lisa also told Helen Sharwood in January 2011 “Simon is so good, he is so spiritual, He was going to be a priest and she does not feel like she could ever be as good as he is”.

  4. sophia says:

    If simon gittany appeal does not succeed, what does the gittany clan intend to do ?? Have they any expectactions from the public??

    • Moderator_4 says:

      Hi Sophia,

      We have not thought that far ahead. I hope you can appreciate this is a very stressful time for us and we taking each day as it comes to prepare for the appeal. Thank you.

  5. caramel says:

    there is no such thing as false or true memory . it is only false to you cause you don t believe in it .that is all.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi Caramel, we suggest you do a little more research regarding false memories as it’s well documented and there is plenty of information available.

  6. caramel says:

    I don t want to bother you but will you have call false memory the witness testimony if you had believe in it ?
    everything is relative no ?

    • Administrator says:

      Hi Caramel, the fact that elements such as the council workers and the students observations don’t align with many aspects of Joshua Rathmell testimony are what concern us the most. It isn’t a case of choosing to believe a particular version of events due to an inherent bias. Thank you for comment.

  7. MIA says:

    you realised that if lisa had leaned on the balustrade without really being aware of endangering her life she would have been psychotic. in a gittany case next time a judge has in hand the psychiatrics’record of miss harmum,and if inside it is stated that lisa had already suffered past psychosis episodes (like you seem to insinuate) then, any judge in charge of this case won t have any difficulties to consider that she may have died accidentally.