The Advocate front page from June 14.
The Advocate front page from June 14.

Conwoman behind bars


LAST night, Coffs Harbour's Joanne McDonald probably had her best sleep in many months.

The horrible woman who preyed on Joanne has finally been caught. Police yesterday arrested 28-year-old Jodie Harris, who has been the subject of a three-State police hunt after allegedly robbing the bank accounts of a myriad of unsuspecting women.

Joanne, 44 told the Coffs Coast Advocate three weeks ago about how Harris befriended her in Melbourne in February, stole her driver's licence, assumed her identity and then drained the entire $4000 from her bank account.

The harrowing ordeal left the mother-of-two paranoid, insecure and violated, and prone to panic attacks.

But yesterday morning's news bulletin detailing the capture of Harris gave Joanne plenty to cheer about.

"My first reaction was 'my God, my God, she's caught at last'," Joanne said.

"I just can't believe what she's done to me and all the other victims. She needs to pay all the money back."

Joanne wants Harris to face all the women she mercilessly ripped off, and she's prepared to testify against her in court.

"I would be willing to put her away," Joanne said.

"If I had the chance to speak to her, I'd ask her why she did what she did to people who trusted her. But I know she's not going to change."

The worst thing for Joanne wasn't the money she lost (which her bank later reimbursed). Rather, it was the heartache and distress she's endured.

"Whenever I'd see stories in the media about her, I'd become anxious. It reached the point where I'd become jumpy if I saw someone I thought was her," Joanne said.

"I'd like to thank the Advocate for its support, along with the many concerned members of the community."

Police yesterday said Harris was arrested with a second person, a man believed to be her Victorian police officer fiance to whom she is reportedly pregnant.

Harris, 28, of Brisbane, is wanted by police in three states over fraud offences.

She was arrested in a car on Harris Street in inner-Sydney Ultimo at 4.30am yesterday and was questioned at City Central police station.

Rose Bay police Crime Manager Detective Inspector Grant Taylor said the 37-year-old Victorian man who was in the car, believed to be Victorian police Senior Constable Andrew Twining, was released pending further inquiries.

Fairfax newspapers this week reported Ms Harris was pregnant to Mr Twining and the pair were engaged.

Police would not confirm the man's identity. "The Victorian police are currently involved in this investigation and they will be speaking to this person further," Insp Taylor said.

About 3pm yesterday, Harris was taken to Sydney Hospital in a police wagon.

She left the hospital an hour later after a medical examination. Police officers were expected to finalise the charges against Harris late yesterday, and she was expected to face a Sydney court today.

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