There are two versions of Belle Gibson. The version we see and the version inside Belle’s own head.
It’s why despite everything – the fake cancer story, the public embarrassment and now the humiliating home raids – Australia’s biggest cancer con still holds her head high.
The 28-year-old who lied about having terminal cancer to scam Australians out of $ 578,000 has been telling herself the same story since her lies started to unravel.
It’s a story about a do-gooder. A person whose character is magnanimous even if the media says otherwise.
One example comes from 2015, the day Belle received emails from investigative journalists at The Age newspaper in Melbourne.
Journalists Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano were chasing leads, digging into claims that Belle had lied about having cancer and that profits from her cookbook and app The Whole Pantry were not going to charity, as she had claimed.
The questions sent Belle into a frenzy. Phone and email records show that within 10 minutes of opening the email, the then-highly successful 23-year-old called charities who had been promised donations and finally paid them.
But what’s most illuminating is the email Belle sent back. In their book, The Woman Who Fooled The World, Donelly and Toscano write that Belle went to great lengths to paint herself as a philanthropist.
“Gibson kept spruiking her charity work, wrote about her sacrifices for others, and her support for those less fortunate,” the pair wrote.
“This was odd. Usually, when people are caught out like this, and a reporter comes knocking, they say very little. Or they bunker down and say nothing at all.”
The same story emerged in court last year where Belle broke down, seemingly frustrated that nobody could see her for what she really is.
It was a moment of rare emotion on the stand inside the Federal Court where Belle had been otherwise resilient under fire from lawyers for Consumer Affairs Victoria.
She had been asked about work she was doing to raise money after her business folded and she was fined $ 410,000.
The work was via Airtasker – a mobile marketplace where people can outsource everyday tasks – and Belle had been helping an elderly woman.
Asked to give details, she couldn’t.
“This is what I’m saying about my empathetic nature,” she told the court before stopping to remove her glasses and wipe away tears.
The court was adjourned for five minutes to give Gibson a chance to compose herself. Later, the court heard Belle had been trading in cryptocurrency and had opened a Sportsbet account but had also donated some money to the Flint Water Crisis.
She couldn’t pay back people she had scammed and she refused to pay a cent towards her fine, but nothing would stop her helping the good people of Michigan access clean drinking water.
Outside court, the same narrative was playing out for Belle.
During a brief recess, as Belle and her lawyers filtered through the narrow exit at the Federal Court, the cancer conwoman told her team: “It’s sad the media are covering stories like this. They should be covering more important things.”
The insinuation is that a woman who lies about her terminal illness to con kind-hearted Australians out of their hard-earned money with dangerous and fake remedies is not a story.
A former boss said it well in a conversation with news.com.au. Maxine Fenson, who owns the Brunswick-based strip club Maxine’s and who briefly hired Belle to carry out tasks for her, said nothing will change for the mother-of-one until she admits to herself that she was wrong.
Until she apologises.
“Just be humble and apologise,” Ms Fenson said.
“You’ll find people will be kinder to you. I wish her the best, but she really needs to look at the damage she’s done.”
Belle’s Northcote home was yesterday raided and some of her assets were seized as part of an attempt to recoup the six-figure fine.
The fine, handed down in September 2017, originally stood at $ 410,000. It has now ballooned to more than $ 500,000 including fines, interest and other penalties.