Sharon Siermans: Campaign focuses on perils of online dating

PURPLE was Sharon Siermans’ favourite colour. So it is fitting a foundation established in her honour has the colour purple in its name.

The Purple Butterfly Foundation was set up after Ms Siermans, a 29-year-old Ballarat mother, was murdered in her home on April 6 last year by a man she met on an internet dating service.

The Purple Butterfly Foundation hopes to educate the community on stranger danger, in particular the risks of looking for love online.

In 2012, Ms Siermans joined an internet dating site after splitting from her partner and the father of her son, Aron.

After meeting a few potential suitors over a cup of coffee, she was “introduced” to Jason Dinsley over that same dating site.

Dinsley, a man with 99 prior convictions, including rape, wooed the young Ballarat mother via text messages, even confiding in her he had not been in a relationship for seven years since the death of his fiancee in a car crash. 

In fact, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

He had actually been in prison for the rape of a woman in St Kilda. After many text messages from Dinsley, Ms Siermans agreed to meet him. 

She picked him up from the Ballarat Railway Station and instantly felt unease, as Dinsley’s appearance was dirty, his hair and clothes were messy and he was missing teeth, nothing like his online profile. However, in a fateful decision, Ms Siermans took Dinsley back to her Doveton Street South home instead of a Chinese restaurant, as first agreed. 

Shortly after the “date” began, Ms Siermans secretly phoned a friend pleading with her to make a fake phone call claiming her son was sick.

She then drove Dinsley back to the railway station and hoped to never see him again.

Months later and only weeks before her death, Ms Siermans began receiving death threats on her mobile phone, noticed louvres were missing from her Doveton Street home and cigarette butts strewn around the property.

It has since been revealed Dinsley was stalking Ms Siermans before he murdered her.

Siermans family friend Matthew Tol said raising awareness about the dangers of internet dating was extremely important.

“Sharon’s situation may have been much different if there were proper checks made, but the internet dating industry is unregulated,” Mr Tol said.

“The Purple Butterfly Foundation is aimed towards females.

“We need to let people know that their single friends, their daughters, their sisters, their granddaughters, could be in danger from using these dating sites.

“Because women who go on these sites may be vulnerable and lonely, they often suspend their caution and normal behaviour patterns. 

“There are people out there who prey on that vulnerability. These women need to have a healthy scepticism when dealing with online dating services.

“If this foundation can stop one person from going through what John and Denise are going through, then it has done its job.”

Mr Tol warned of predators using sites who pretended to be someone they’re not. 

“They can be whoever they want to be on the internet ... they can doctor photos, use different names, different interests,” he said.

He stressed those going on dates with people they meet online should always tell a friend or relative where they were going and what they were doing.

“It might just save their lives.”

kim.quinlan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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