Last Sunday night, viewers from around Australia watched reporter Tara Brown interviewing Belle Gibson on Channel Nine’s 60 minutes program.
Belle Gibson, whose real name is Annabelle Natalie Gibson, created an online persona whereby she portrayed herself as a survivor of several diseases.
Indeed, she built a highly profitable career from her claims to have cured herself of terminal brain cancer, writing a popular self-help book on how to heal yourself using natural remedies.
She even made an App called ‘The Whole Pantry’ about Health Wellness and Lifestyle, which featured as a ‘Top Rated App’ that achieved over 200,000 downloads.
Gibson claimed that she suffered from a whole host of serious illnesses – ranging from cancers in her blood, uterus and spleen to serious heart problems requiring surgery. But despite having such deadly diseases, she glowed of amazing health and colour on her hundreds of pictures posted on Instagram and other social networking sites.
Viewing her photos, it’s no wonder that so many real cancer sufferers flocked to Gibson like moths to a flame. They were fascinated by the possibility of being cured using a healthy food diet, and many even stopped taking their medications and listening to their doctors’ advice.
Real cancer sufferers were hanging on Gibson’s every word and happily donating to her cause, in the hope that they too might be able to heal themselves.
Gibson solicited donations from over 200,000 people from sales of her wellness app and donations, and she promised that part of the profit would be donated to other charities.
She also made promises that 25% of the profits from her Book would be donated to charities and claimed that $300,000 had already been donated .
The truth surfaces
But on 22nd April 2015, Gibson admitted to the Australian Woman’s Weekly that she lied about having cancer, stating “No none of it is true”.
Her lies had already started to unravel when Fairfax Media published a story about a charity organisation missing donations that were promised by Gibson.
Gibson tried to hide from the situation by disabling her social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and attempted to avoid the media.
But by then it was too late, and the truth was in the public domain.
Generally, fraud involves the use of deception or dishonesty to gain property or financial advantage. In Victoria there is no single crime of ‘fraud’, but there are various offences covering fraud in the Crimes Act 1958 such as ‘obtaining property by deception’ and ‘obtaining financial advantage by deception.’
Yet in Gibson’s case, Victorian Police have so far decided that she will not face criminal proceedings. Instead, the matter will be looked into by Consumer Affairs Victoria. This means that if it ends up in court, it would be as a civil case, not a criminal one.
Many Australians are angry that Gibson is likely to escape prosecution despite her fraudulent conduct.
They are outraged about the unscrupulous deceit she employed to make money, and that she continues to generate income through participating in television interviews.
Gibson put lives at risk by causing people to give up their regular cancer treatments and ignore the advice of their doctors, preferring to adopt an unproven diet.
She appears to be a narcissist that sees herself as the victim, but the sad reality is that she lined her pockets by preying on the vulnerability of cancer sufferers and the generosity of those who donated to her cause, many of whom might be more reluctant to donate in the future.