Perfect HSC score to serial text harasser
Just over two decades ago, serial text harasser Denise Jane Lee made news for all the right reasons, as one of 14 gifted students who scored a perfect 100 on the tertiary entrance score.
One of the stories about the dazzling high achievers was entitled "Class of '96: perfect one day, brilliant the next".
Lee is pictured smiling sweetly among a group of 12 of the big brains gathered in a North Sydney park opposite the then headquarters of the NSW Board of Studies.
The 17-year-old, who was Dux of Sydney Girls High School that year, aced ancient history, maths, chemistry, English and Japanese.
She planned to study medicine at the University of NSW.
Like the others Lee gave details of her dreams and what she had learnt from her study, responding simply: "Goal: Work in research. Lesson: Value of friends."
And like the others, Lee would go on to achieve her ambitions, but unlike them she is again making news - this time for all the wrong reasons.
Last week, Lee pleaded guilty to four charges relating to 9000 text messages she sent to a brief Tinder lover Matthew Holberton, and vicious emails intended to humiliate and harm his subsequent girlfriend and her mother.
As she awaits a potential prison sentence to be imposed in February next year, news.com.au has learned of the past of the incredibly bright but divisive loner.
Many of the Class of 1996 did go on to enjoy incredible success - one as an international rights lawyer, another as an investigative journalist turned doctor and yet another as a first class honours medical graduate who became a paediatric surgeon.
Lee, too, had become a radiologist in Sydney at Australia's largest medical imaging clinic network, I-MED.
But she was sacked from that job after being charged with ten counts, allegedly relating to the abusive and threatening texts sent over three months in 2015.
Six of the charges were dropped in the Downing Centre Local Court last week.
Lee pleaded guilty in to one count of intimidation with intent to cause fear or physical harm, and three counts of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend.
As revealed exclusively last week, the 9000 texts were followed by nasty and malicious emails sent by Lee once she learnt of Mr Holberton's new romance with university ethics adviser Georgia Dempster in mid-2016.
In one email sent to Ms Dempster's university colleagues, Lee reveals a catty kind of intellectual superiority to her successor who she dubs "The Unit".
In between derogatory remarks about Ms Dempster's appearance, Lee writes: "Isn't this The Unit who couldn't get into a basic Bachelor of Commerce degree at Monash or Melbourne university, she had to go to RMIT HAHAHAHAH."
Lee's snobbery about Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is misplaced, as Ms Dempster also has degrees from both of the two other prestigious universities she cited.
Former Sydney Girls High classmates of Lee have told news.com.au about the solitary figure she cut as a schoolgirl, and of an ungenerous act she carried out against another in her 20s.
Now aged 40, in her school days Lee was a year younger than many of her peers, entering Year 12 aged just 16.
Despite her youth however, the high achieving student knew exactly what she had to do to achieve her goal of becoming a doctor.
Lee would tell The Daily Telegraph about her perfect score: "I aimed high because I always wanted to do medicine. Its more than I thought I'd get, but I worked hard to get there."
Her hard work earned her a spot among top in the state in Chemistry 2, and in the Metro East division of the state.
Lee did not participate in school dancing classes, was not very sporty and was always studying, to the extent that she sometimes fell asleep in lessons.
"She was a loner," the classmate told news.com.au.
The Sydney Girls High School Year Book, run by students, has no profile of Lee among its Year 12 class biographies, nor does she feature in the class photo or any other picture.
One classmate told news.com.au that years after graduating to study medicine at UNSW, Lee learnt that a classmate who had studied law was having an affair with a married partner at her law firm.
"She contacted all the partners at the firm and told them about the affair the woman was having with the married man, whose wife was pregnant with twins," the former classmate said. "The woman was later sacked."
Lee was a 36-year-old specialist working at I-MED when she met Matthew Holberton, an account manager Pinnacle Investment Management.
They met in July 2015 via the dating app Tinder.
She had bought a $1.695 million three-bedroom apartment off the plan a year earlier in the eastern Sydney harbourside suburb of Rushcutters Bay.
Holberton would have seemed like the ideal romantic candidate to Lee.
He was a former private schoolboy who had studied languages and maths at Trinity Grammar School and was a Melbourne University Bachelor of Commerce and Finance graduate.
Over four months, they would have ten dates including two sexual liaisons and an "encounter", although Mr Holberton's intention on the last three occasions they met was to end it.
Prosecutors would later describe theirs as a "very, very brief relationship".
Police facts say that Lee continually refused Mr Holberton's attempts to declare it over, texting that "I want us to try properly and I'll treat you better this time".
Other texts in denial that it was over were, "If I leave you alone for a few days can we talk and see how we feel then" and "I don't want things to end in such an ugly manner".
After the first of four dinner dates with Lee on July 28 in 2015, Mr Holberton texted her that "soft skin and firm muscles are sexy".
On the second dinner date, August 29, nothing sexual happened, but after the third, on September 3, the pair had a "consensual encounter" in the entrance hall landing of her flat.
The day after, Mr Holberton text her saying, "sorry I might have grazed you" and they discuss intimate details of the encounter.
On September 18, after their fourth dinner date, Mr Holberton returned with Ms Lee to her house and they had sexual intercourse.
But by September 22, Ms Lee seemed unhappy, sending three texts in two minutes to Mr Holberton saying, "I was happy to go out with you. I didn't know it was just for sex. That changes it".
Three minutes later she texted, "a dirty f**k on the landing would have suited you just fine I think".
Two days later, she sent him 20 unhappy texts and says she's "really angry".
On September 25, Mr Holberton texted her: "Your behaviour leaves me cold. I officially never want to talk to or see you again".
Lee continues to text, jeering at him with "you don't even know how to touch a girl".
On October 3, 2015, they met and had their last sexual encounter.
During and after three meetings "trying to cool things off", Lee's barrage of texts continued.
They included the threats like "you deserve everything you're going to get", "I will make you f**king pay", "I am going to f**k your life up" and "whatever you value most, I'll target".
On November 11, 2015, Lee started texting Mr Holberton in the morning, sent a further 69 texts or voice messages between 9.35am and 10.55am including "you are going to regret f***ing taking me for a ride".
Between November and December 15, she texted, "I want payback for what you did to me" and "I know where you live and work".
Then "I am going to f*** you up the way you f***ed me up" and "maybe your parents need to find out".
And "I willl get my revenge for how you f***ed me over and you won't know what hit you".
Lee also emailed the CEO of Pinnacle Investments, Mr Holberton's employer.
In December 2015, Mr Holberton reported Lee's messages to the NSW Police. The following month, he moved to Melbourne where he continued to work for Pinnacle, and met university ethics adviser, Ms Dempster.
On June 12, 2016, Mr Holberton made his relationship with Ms Dempster public, via Instagram.
The next day, Lee sent Ms Dempster an offensive email.
Thereafter, Lee sent derogatory emails to university colleagues of Ms Dempster and her mother, with entirely fabricated and damaging slurs against their professional lives.
Using an encrypted sender, Lee's emails about Ms Dempster were vile and personal, attempting to impugn her credibility.
While the emails were a cleverly crafted hate campaign, they revealed Lee's emotional immaturity, relying on crude put-downs of the victim's physical attractiveness.
In December 2016, police raided Lee's Sydney flat, seizing mobile phones, a laptop, a tablet and other devices.
In late February, 2017, detectives charged Lee.
Days later, I-MED sacked her and the next month the NSW Medical Council suspended her licence to practise.
However, Lee appealed to the NSW Civil Administration Tribunal, which in September 2017 granted a temporary stay on the suspension while the matter was still unresolved.
NCAT Acting Judge Dennis Cowdroy said Lee should be allowed to work and fund her case, which was estimated to cost up to $300,000 in legal fees.
The tribunal heard Lee had a $350,000 share portfolio and her $1.695 million flat, but could not increase the mortgage debt over her premises while she had no income.
It is unclear if Ms Lee's guilty plea will affect the stay on her practise licence suspension.
The NSW Medical Council's suspension had been on the grounds she allegedly acted "in ways that damage the standing of the medical profession" and posed a "significant risk" she might behave similarly to patients.
Judge Conroy ruled the Council had not identified any risk to any patient.