In court last Friday, Erin Tanti pleaded guilty to willful homicide, assisting in a suicide, participating in sexual activity with a vulnerable minor and creating and possessing indecent images of a minor, landing him 20 years and six months in prison.
On the 19th of March, 2014, 15-year old Lisa Marie Zahra and 23-year-old Erin Tanti were found after having fallen from Dingli Cliffs. Soon after, it was confirmed that Lisa Marie had died on site, while Tanti suffered serious injuries. As the details of their friendship and relationship unfolded, it was revealed that the two had been in a romantic and sexual relationship, despite the fact that Lisa Marie was still a minor.
Now, after over five years of investigations, court dates and unanswered questions, Tanti pleaded guilty to the above-mentioned crimes in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence than would have been given by a jury.
In light of this, two of Tanti’s former students at the time of the crime have come forward to share their memories of their ex-teacher… and their feelings on his conviction
For the purpose of clarity, the two students, who have asked to be kept anonymous, will be referred to as Amy and Jack from here onwards. Both were 12 years old and in one of Tanti’s Form 1 Drama classes at the time of the crime.
When asked about their general reaction to hearing the news back in 2014, Jack said that he simply “couldn’t believe it” while Amy explained that she was shocked to find out that a teacher she found “upbeat and fun” was “basically a murderer”. “Then again, I could understand why people were so surprised by the whole situation, because he was such a good actor,” Jack added.
“He came off as your average, fun, over the top drama teacher,” Amy said, going on to admit she would never have suspected him of anything. Meanwhile, Jack said that although he was still young, it would have been almost impossible to predict this side of their teacher.
“It fills you with major distrust. If this man who we all suspected nothing of could do that, then what could other people do? It’s scary to think that one of our best teachers stole this girl’s entire future.”
Looking back on school life and the environment following the tragic events, Jack recalled a little memorial to Lisa that was engraved into the floor by the school entrance, while Amy described in more detail the feelings of some of the students.
“People were depressed, untrusting, confused and scared”
She also commented on some PSD lessons on paedophilia and suicide prevention that they had early in the next scholastic year… even if she couldn’t confirm whether these were included because of the incident.
When it got to their feelings on the court case in the years following the incident, here’s where Jack and Amy’s emotions reached a fever pitch, with both giving impassioned statements on the conviction.
“Only 20 years? He had sex with a minor, emotionally manipulated and used a minor, and then let her kill herself as he stood there and did nothing”
“We’re 17, she was 15,” Amy said. “We are already older than she’ll ever get to be. Think about that.”
Lastly, when asked about the one thing they would say if they ever met Tanti again, Amy said that she would ask “what his thought process was that made him think anything he did was okay” while Jack said he would simply give him a disappointed stare but not say anything.