Domestic violence victim who faked terminal cancer avoids jail

Kamilia Palu

A former pin-up model who faked terminal cancer and gained $2135 in donations, has avoided jail time and been handed a good behaviour bond instead.

Elizabeth ‘Elle’ Edmunds pleaded guilty to two counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception in March.

On Friday she appeared at Belmont Local Court on Friday for sentencing.

The 32-year-old New South Wales woman earned more than $2000 in online donations – including $500 from a ‘wish’ foundation – after she revealed over social media that she only had three years to live.

Elizabeth 'Elle' Edmunds pleaded guilty in Belmont Local Court, near Newcastle. Photo: Facebook
Elizabeth 'Elle' Edmunds pleaded guilty in Belmont Local Court, near Newcastle. Photo: Facebook

In court Edmunds told of how she was the victim, forced into the lie by her partner of four years ,John Heagney.

“He was in on it just as much as me. He was the one who instigated it,” she said.

“It was his documentation, doctors. It was his plan. I went through with it because I was in fear.

“He tried to kill me, many a time.”

The story was in stark contrast to her partner’s reaction outside of court last year, where Heagney was quoted as saying he felt deceived by Edmunds’ lies.

"She was in bed for virtually seven months. I looked after her to the best of my ability,” he told Fairfax in june 2015.

The former pin-up model said the whole scam was her partner's idea and she was forced to comply through physical violence. Photo: Facebook
The former pin-up model said the whole scam was her partner's idea and she was forced to comply through physical violence. Photo: Facebook

"It's just wrecked my life. I go to a psychologist fortnightly and a GP weekly."

Magistrate Sharon Crews found that Edmunds was a victim of domestic violence and her bizarre actions were a result of pressure from Heagney.

She also said the abuse was not an excuse for betraying the trust of the community.

"Those who made private donations to the Mummy's Wish Foundation felt very let down, disappointed and aggrieved," she said.

"By perpetuating that lie, some say you deserve the public media condemnation."

The web of deception began in April last year when Edmunds sat down with her close friends and family and told them she had terminal ovarian cancer.

She was so dedicated to her lie that she even admitted to taking medication to make herself appear sick.

The Facebook page for Edmunds helped to raise more than $2000 in donations. Photo: Facebook
The Facebook page for Edmunds helped to raise more than $2000 in donations. Photo: Facebook

On a Facebook page titled ‘Help for Elle’, photos were uploaded of Edmunds having her head shaved.

She also faked hospital visits for ‘chemotherapy’ and was so involved in the scandal that by November she said that she genuinely started to believe she was sick.

Her 19-year-old stepdaughter Kyala, fooled by the elaborate plan, even went to the lengths of getting a tattoo on her chest in tribute to her ‘dying’ stepmum.

Magistrate determined Edmunds had a low chance of reoffending and sentenced her to serve to 18-month sentences concurrently.

The sentencing comes as it was revealed on Friday that no criminal charges will be laid against disgraced Victorian health blogger Belle Gibson, who could face $1.1 million in penalties.

Gibson gained a strong online presence when she claimed to have cured terminal cancer by abandoning conventional treatments and opting for natural health and wellness remedies.

Disgraced health blogger Belle Gibson. Photo:Facebook
Disgraced health blogger Belle Gibson. Photo:Facebook

Her Instagram blog, Healing Belle, gained close to 200,000 followers and she penned a successful cookbook titled The Whole Pantry.

Cracks started to appear in Gibson’s story when it was revealed that $300,000 raised by her mobile phone app and promised to cancer charities was never donated.

The controversy gathered pace quickly, with a book deal with Penguin Publishing evaporating and Apple removing her product from its App Store. Those who had purchased her products demanded their money back.

The 23-year-old will face court following a 14-month-investigation by the consumer watchdog.