A Brisbane mother who lied about her young daughter having a terminal brain tumour and raised more than $10,000 via several fundraisers was “motivated by a sense of greed”, a court has heard.
- The court heard the woman lied to her husband about the child’s illness and he had quit his job
- Police discovered the hospital had no record of the child having cancer
- Defence lawyer Nicholas Hanly says his client told a lie that “snowballed”
The 37-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of dishonestly gaining a benefit and was sentenced to nine months’ jail wholly suspended for two years in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.
She was also ordered to serve two years’ probation.
The court heard that in July 2018, the woman called an ambulance for her five-year-old daughter, who had been complaining of headaches.
Doctors diagnosed the girl with Arnold Chiari Malformation Type 1 — a variation of the skull hole where the spinal cord exits — and also found a small cyst.
The court heard that in May 2019, the woman told her husband and mother her daughter had a cancerous tumour that was terminal.
“This was a lie and the defendant knew it not to be true,” prosecutor Senior Sergeant Carrie Davidson told the court.
The woman and other family members set up a “bucket list” for the girl, which resulted in businesses donating experiences, such as a whale watching tour and a helicopter flight.
The court heard several fundraisers were also organised via social media and GoFundMe pages, which raised more than $10,000.
‘Motivated by a sense of greed’
In September 2019, the mother told police in an interview that the hospital had told her that her daughter had a tumour, Senior Sergeant Davidson told the court.
But the story soon unravelled after police checked the girl’s medical records at the hospital.
“It was explained to her [the mother] that police had made enquiries with the hospital, which advised that there was no record of cancer ever being discussed or suspected,” Senior Sergeant Davidson said.
“The defendant had been shown her Facebook posts [where she] admitted that she had lied about [the girl] having cancer.
Senior Sergeant Davidson said the mother was “motivated by a sense of greed”.
“The deceit and careful planning to deprive the community of a significant amount of money cannot go unpunished,” she told the court.
“The concerning aspect of these type of offences is the breach of trust. The offending was planned and systematic.”
‘Repeated and outrageous lies’
The prosecutor said the woman’s offending damaged the trust the community has in assisting genuine cases.
“It’s offensive to members of the community who really are struggling with cancer and its effects, and who rely on this assistance that the community offers in order to get them through these tough periods in their life,” Senior Sergeant Davidson said.
Defence lawyer Nicholas Hanly told the court his client started a lie that “snowballed”.
“She could not offer a specific reason for her offending other than that she was feeling highly stressed and depressed and had made foolish decisions and didn’t know how to end what had started.
“This case is one which involves someone that has below average intellect, who has had a daughter diagnosed with a medical condition.
“She has then made a giant leap and formulated that it was something else fraudulently and reaped the benefits from that.”
Magistrate Mark Nolan said the woman’s story was a “complete fabrication” based on “repeated and outrageous lies”.
“Your conduct in fabricating and then repeating a story about your own five-year-old daughter suffering a terminal brain tumour is appalling and egregious in every respect,” Magistrate Nolan said.
“You preyed upon the kindness and the generosity of decent, well-meaning members of the community.”