Harriet Wran, the high-profile former NSW premier’s daughter and now one of the state’s most notorious prisoners, has tearfully told a supreme court sentencing hearing in Sydney of her battles with mental illness and her descent into the grips of a crippling addiction to the drug ice.
The youngest daughter of the late NSW premier Neville Wran was set to be tried for the 2014 murder of Daniel McNulty last week, but instead pleaded guilty to downgraded charges of robbery in company and acting as an accessory to murder after the fact.
She stepped into the witness box on Thursday morning to tell Justice Ian Harrison she thought about the death of McNulty, and the critical injuries sustained by his housemate Brett Fitzgerald, multiple times every day.
“I feel terrible. I’m ashamed to have been involved in anything like that,” Wran said.
“I can’t believe someone died. I can’t believe someone was so badly hurt. No one should lose their life in those circumstances.”
The 28-year-old told how she developed anorexia, and then bulimia, in her late teens, and had been battling an addiction to methamphetamine for two-and-a-half years before McNulty was murdered by her then-boyfriend, Michael Lee, and his friend Lloyd Edward Haines, at an inner-city housing commission unit.
Though she had a privileged childhood and attended two of Sydney’s most exclusive private girls’ schools, Wran said school was “a form of torture” for her.
She said she had been diagnosed with childhood ADHD and was prescribed Ritalin, which she kept taking until the age of 23, and dabbled with ecstasy and cocaine.
But she never believed she could become an ice user.
“It was in another league of drugs,” Wran said. “It was something I associated with, you know when you see the billboard signs of people basically rotting away from using it, that’s how I felt about it.
But she turned her back on her own golden rule at “the most difficult time in our family life” – after her father’s admission to hospital with dementia.
A rift in the family over how Wran should be treated resulted in Wran’s mother Jill Hickson losing power of attorney, she said.
“All of a sudden we worried about paying the electrical bills because our accounts were frozen,” Wran said, as her mother closed her eyes in the public gallery of the courtroom.
“Dad was lost, he wasn’t sure who to believe either and he had so many voices in his ear and we suddenly lost him.”
In about August 2011 Wran was struggling to cope with her cocaine use and the “blight” of her spiralling bulimia, and was fresh from a stint in a rehabilitation centre when she went to a pub with a man she had met during treatment.
“And I can just remember him holding an ice pipe in front of me and I took some,” she said in a quiet voice.
“There was just a chemical high that I never knew existed before that. And I knew straight away that my brain wasn’t going to forget about that.”
The following years were marked by drug use, self-harm and admissions to rehab centres.
At some point, Wran said, she was able to complete her treatment and get “clean”.
At other times, the cravings for the drug ice were so strong she ran out. On one occasion she was so desperate for a hit she jumped a fence even as her discharge papers were being filled out.
Her final relapse came just over a month before McNulty was killed, she said.
The hearing continues.