At age 21 Simon Gittany bit part of a policeman's ear off after the officer tried to bring him to court to face stolen goods charges. Within two years he was living the barren, chaste existence of a novice monk in a French religious order.
A further year down the track the young man from Merrylands was dishing out a decidedly non-religious form of ecstasy and was arrested for drug supply.
It was in this context that Justice Lucy McCallum declared on Tuesday, while sentencing Gittany to at least 18 years jail for murder, that he could not be ''treated as a one-dimensional personality'' characterised as ''either good or evil''.
Justice McCallum painted a picture of Gittany as a Jekyll and Hyde-type character defined by contradictions - a highly religious man apparently capable of great generosity to the members of his family on one hand, but also of dominating and eventually murdering the woman he claimed to love.
Justice McCallum found that Gittany's act of throwing his fiancee Lisa Harnum off the 15th-storey balcony of their Hyde Park apartment was not premeditated as the Crown had claimed, but one based on an intention ''formed suddenly and in a state of rage''. It had a ''troubling resonance'' with the ear-biting incident nearly 20 years before, with both entailing ''a sudden loss of control and a response of extreme violence to a blameless act''.
''Each involves a form of violence that is shocking and unequivocal,'' she said. ''In the case of the malicious wounding, a police officer was performing his duty … In the case of the murder of Ms Harnum, she was attempting to leave the apartment, as was her undoubted right.''
But the rage which took hold of Gittany that morning did not simply come out of the blue, Justice McCallum found. Instead it was ''facilitated by a sense of ownership and a lack of any true respect for the autonomy of the woman he claimed to love''.
''The arrogance and sense of entitlement with which Mr Gittany sought to control Lisa Harnum throughout their relationship deny the characterisation of his state of mind in killing her as one of complete and unexpected spontaneity,'' she said. ''He allowed possessiveness and insecurity to overwhelm the most basic respect for her right to live her life as she chose.''
Justice McCallum gave little weight to the evidence of Gittany's new girlfriend Rachelle Louise, who told the court last week that the 40-year-old was ''the best boyfriend I've ever had''.
''I do not think any reliable inference as to Mr Gittany's future conduct can be drawn from his flamboyant relationship with Ms Louise,'' Justice McCallum said.
Ms Louise did not attend court to see what sentence he would receive on Tuesday. Lisa Harnum's mother said that ''regrettably'' she was unable to speak to any media after she signed a contract forbidding her to talk for another seven to 10 days.
Gittany's four sisters also remained tight-lipped, with the exception of a courtroom outburst as the sentence was handed down.
''In the name of Jesus Christ, he won't be serving any of that time!'' one of the quartet shouted, before being escorted from the courtroom by the sheriffs. The surreality continued as one of the hundred-strong court watchers perched high in the public gallery whooped in apparent celebration and then shouted ''off the balcony you go!'' as Gittany was taken away.
As they left, Gittany's solicitor Abigail Bannister declared that her client would appeal his conviction. ''Mr Gittany maintains his innocence and will launch an appeal,'' she said. The show, it seems, is destined to go on.