This is the story of Cancer Fraudster Belle Gibson, an Australian woman who allegedly faked a cancer diagnosis to scam thousands.
Born Annabelle Natalie Gibson on 8 October 1991 in Launceston, a riverside city in northern Tasmania, Belle is an Australian convicted scammer and pseudoscience advocate.
In 2013, Belle claimed to have met a man called Mark Jones in 2009, who said he was a neurologist and immunologist. The man did certain tests on her and told her that she had stage 4 brain tumor, and approximately 4 months to live. However, no record of him exists.
The same year, she claims to have had three life-saving heart operations, suffered two cardiac arrests, and even died, not once but twice on the operating table. There are unclear details of Belle’s progression with proper medical care, but somewhere along the way, she decided to ditch conventional medical care in favor of natural remedies to treat her terminal brain cancer. She claimed she was effectively self-managing her multiple cancers through diet, exercise, and alternative therapies.
She made adopting a “wellness” diet to treat cancer seem plausible. And when she documented her “miracle” recovery on Instagram, she became a worldwide celebrity. Belle curated a perfect Instagram profile of a wellness blogger and gained more than 300,000 followers. Adoring comments from her followers showered her posts. She exemplified hope for many people who lived with the realities of cancer.
The cancer conwoman founded the Whole Pantry app. She also wrote a cookbook ‘The Whole Pantry’ and published it with Penguin Books, a renowned London-based publisher. Media reports indicate that Apple had invited her to their San Francisco office to launch a marketing strategy for promoting the app and its developer.
A line from Belle’s book read: “I was empowering myself to save my own life through nutrition, patience, determination and love” – quite inspirational, if only it was true. Belle had promised that a portion of each app sale would go to charity, but multiple media reports have revealed she broke those promises.
Too good to be true
In July, Belle Gibson posted on her Instagram, “With frustration and ache in my heart . . . it hurts me to find space tonight to let you all know with love and strength that I’ve been diagnosed with a third and fourth cancer.” The radiant 26-year-old (who was actually 23), looked too perfect for someone who had had cancer of the blood, spleen, brain, uterus, and liver and an inoperable tumor.
Journalist Richard Guilliatt, whose wife had battled cancer, was intrigued by Gibson’s “a million dollars” appearance. So, he dug deeper. Guilliant found out that no trail of Belle existed before 2012. Also, the real Gibson never had cancer and had a history of faking illness. Reports surfaced of Gibson failing to honour her promises to charities, and Belle had blamed it on “poor projections” for her book and app. The lies went back years, Guillant found. Belle had also lied about her age, personal life, and history. Concerns increased about her, her lifestyle, leasing a luxury car and office space, renting an upmarket townhouse, purchasing designer clothes, undergoing cosmetic dental procedures, and holidaying internationally.
In face to face interviews, the bad Melbourne wellness influencer has been curiously evasive. Her social media support base started to collapse, and she in April 2015 admitted that her claims of having multiple cancers were untrue. In May 2016, Consumer Affairs Victoria announced legal action against Belle Gibson and Inkerman Road Nominees Pty Ltd (originally known as Belle Gibson Pty Ltd) for “false claims…concerning her diagnosis with terminal brain cancer, her rejection of conventional cancer treatments in favour of natural remedies, and the donation of proceeds to various charities.” On March 15, 2017, the Federal Court supported most of those claims, concluding that, “Ms. Gibson had no reasonable basis to believe she had cancer.” The authorities described Belle’s actions as “particularly predatory” and “deceit on a grand scale, for personal profit.”
Victims of the cancer conwoman
Out of thousands of hundreds of Belle’s Instagram followers, there were many individuals who came to believe that the natural remedies she marketed were indeed effective. Pixie Turner is one of them. Pixie rejected doctors’ advice and embraced the diet and lifestyle Belle promoted on social media, innocently hoping to heal her illness. Maxine Ali, another victim, gave up medication for an underlying condition to follow Belle’s example. “Seeing someone like Belle heal themselves made me feel hopeful,” she says. “This was the answer to everything I had been looking for,” said Maxine. However, Maxine’s health plummeted dangerously within a year.
Belle’s cancer scam ends in court fines
Deceit, fabrication, and manipulation ended badly for Belle. According to court documents, she received $440,500 but donated only about $10,000 to charity. In 2017, the court fined her $410,000 for misleading and deceptive conduct.
Gibson has previously appeared in the federal court claiming inability to pay the fine, despite a financial analysis showing she spent about $91,000 between 2017 and 2019 on clothes, cosmetics, holidays and cryptocurrency investments. She now owes more than $500,000 in fines, penalties and interest.
On Friday, May 21, 2021, authorities raided Belle’s Northcote, Melbourne home following her failure to pay the fines. “Ms Gibson owes the Victorian public a substantial debt and Consumer Affairs Victoria will continue to pursue repayment,” a Consumer Affairs Victoria spokesperson said in a statement.
Belle Gibson’s personal and family life
Belle Gibson has a nine-year-old son who lives with her along with a man named “Clive”.
When the court questioned her about her living situation, Belle was adamant her and Clive were not in a relationship, and claimed to not know what he does for work. She did confirm, however, that he regularly pays for things like energy bills, a gardener, legal costs and rent. When questioned about a trip she took with her son to East Africa – cost $5,000 – she said that Clive paid for it.
Call to action
Belle deliberately told lies about her medical condition, which did have serious health consequences for people who believed and tried to follow her lies. She made money for herself out of the lies. Her plan was a carefully-planned con. If anyone else tries to pull off a similar con in the future, people will be a bit more likely to check the facts before believing it.