My pal became a celeb as she battled 'brain cancer'… I spotted red flags at party that brought her lies crashing down | The Sun

IN 2009, Belle Gibson had the worst year of her life… or so she would make us believe.

In the space of 12 months, she would suffer two cardiac arrests and a stroke, undergo three heart surgeries – dying twice on the operating table – only to wake to the news she had four months to live due to an inoperable brain tumour.

Belle's devastating story shocked her best pal Chanelle McAuliffe, and soon after, the rest of the world.

But it was later revealed the sob story was one great web of lies – which is untangled in the new ITVX docuseries The Search For Instagram’s Worst Con Artist.

Available for streaming today, the show traces the incredible story of the Australian influencer who allegedly healed her terminal cancer through wholesome food and natural therapies.

It begins with Belle’s original social media post, that read: "Five years ago today, I was sitting in front of a man who was about to tell me I was dying from malignant brain cancer with six months to live."



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But in the years to follow, the twisted woman would conjure up a devious back story – appealing to cancer victims around the world – to build her brand.

Young and attractive, she became the poster girl for the alternative medicine industry, enjoying overnight fame.

Inspiring more than 300,000 followers, Belle would also create an app – The Whole Pantry – in 2013 and write an accompanying cookbook.

But behind the stardom, Penguin book deal and bank-boostingApple endorsement was tissue of lies that would inevitably bring her empire crashing down.

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Red flags

Belle's best pal Chanelle McAuliffeCredit: ITVx
Australian journalist Richard Guilliatt, whose wife had been diagnosed with cancerCredit: ITVx
Belle looking healthy as ever, despite allegedly having stage four cancerCredit: BBC

Former friend Chanelle McAullife had backed Belle from day one.

But as her best pal became an overnight celeb, she struggled to understand how Belle juggled being a socialite with a terminal illness.

It all came to a head at the end of one of Belle's swanky parties in 2014, when the 'cancer survivor' suddenly dropped to the floor at the end of the evening.

Speaking on the documentary, Chanelle said: "Belle just collapsed and was convulsing on the floor… she was having a seizure.

"I said 'we need to call an ambulance'."

Miraculously, on hearing those words, Belle immediately came out of the seizure.

Chanelle added: "Belle looked at me and 'no I don’t want Western medicine involved'.

"I’ve never witnessed a person who has had a seizure before, but my initial reaction was she recovered quite fast.

"When I left the party I felt really sick in the stomach and that’s when the red flags started to pop up."

By this time, Belle had more than 300,000 followers on social media.

Five years had also passed since her original terminal cancer "diagnosis" in 2009, when she was told she had just four months to live at age 20.

She initially claimed that she battled through gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy for two months, before giving it up to explore alternative medicine as a cure.

Four years later, when she launched her app, she alleged that nutrition and holistic medicine, coupled with vitamins and oxygen therapy was healing her naturally – and could do the same for other cancer sufferers.

At the same time Richard Guilliatt, a journalist at The Australian whose wife had been diagnosed with cancer, was searching for treatments.

He stumbled upon Belle's story and was shocked.

Richard said: "I was so intrigued because a malignant brain tumour, medically, is hard to treat. Basically, it’s a death sentence.

"I just can’t see how this can be true, I can’t see how it can be possible."

Richard launched an investigation.

Empire starts to crumble

When Belle launched The Whole Pantry app, which positioned itself as the world’s first health and wellness lifestyle app, it was a monumental success.

It was downloaded 200,000 times in the first month and quickly ranked No 1 in the App Store in its first month.

International book deals and media interviews followed, with tech leaders Apple knocking at her door and thousands of fans rushing to follow her Instagram account @healing_belle.

Penguin offered her a cookbook deal with an advance of £70,000 (AU$132,500), and UK Penguin also wanted to sign her up.

The success saw her move to a 582,200 beachside house, buy a new BMW X3 and get her teeth cosmetically straightened.

Alerted by the earlier incident at the party, Chanelle smelt a rat and called out Belle on the eve of her 2014 book launch.

Chanelle said: "Belle was living in a million-dollar house on the beach in quite an affluent suburb in Melbourne. She was flying first class on international trips to Silicon Valley, working with Apple.

"Belle was very passionate about wellness… but then there would be times where I noticed her and another friend went to a solarium to go tanning.

"Another time we went out to a nightclub, and she was ordering shots and lots of drinks and drinking quite excessively. Things just didn’t add up for me."

She recalled the awful moment when she decided to approach Belle in person.

Chanelle added: "She maintained that she had cancer. She maintained everything was true. She was profiting from a web of lies that she was spinning by targeting vulnerable people and sick people.

"It just made my blood boil. And it all added up at that point. In my opinion, it was a strategy. It’s just a f***ing business strategy.

"I felt she was misleading people on such a serious nature that they were making decisions about life-threatening illnesses to stop seeking chemo or radiation to eat fruit and vegetables.

"I said to her 'are you ready to come forward?'

"She basically told me to f*** off."

Feeling the pressure, Belle would later take to social mediaand post another awful lie.

She told her fans she had been diagnosed again with a third and fourth cancer, one secondary and the other primary.

And it had tragically spread from her brain into her blood, spleen, uterus and liver.

Kate Drummond, an Australian neurosurgeon, featured on the documentary and was flummoxed by Belle's case.

Kate said: "The most common type of brain cancer is a glioblastoma, that’s what we call a grade four tumour, that’s the worst grade of malignancy, the fastest growing cancer.

"The treatments are basically surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy – and then sometimes some experimental clinical trials options.

"But although those three treatments certainly prolong a patient’s life, none of them are curative.

"All will eventually grow and be fatal."

The neurosurgeon also believed Belle's story was extremely unlikely.

Kate added: "I have never seen brain cancer in the spleen, I have never seen it in the uterus, it doesn’t make sense.

"If it was that widespread, they wouldn’t be walking or talking."

According to the series, Belle was never able to provide medical documentation that proved she had cancer, nor that she was seen by a professional doctor.

Interview meltdown

Journalist Richard had bought her cookbook and secured an interview, hoping to push Belle on the cancer claims.

Richard said: "She told me a highly recommended doctor had diagnosed her but had disappeared… basically abandoning her.

"I said 'hold on, are you saying you have doubts.'

"She replied 'I would say it was more a misdiagnosis rather than being completely fictional."

Richard says Belle could not back up any of her cancer claims.

He added: “After I left the interview, I got in my car and I just called my editor straight away and I said, like, you’re not going to believe this."

Soon after, the Australian newspaper released a front-page article with the title "Mega-blogger Belle Gibson casts doubt on her own cancer claims".

The piece included quotes from Belle suggested her cancer was the result of a "misdiagnosis" of a German magnetic-therapy team.

Another news outlet, The Age, also released an exposé on Belle at a similar time alleging that she had not made charitable donations with her profits.

In the media frenzy, thousands of posts from Belle's social media were suddenly deleted but she continued to be booked for tell-all interviews, which she was paid for.

The most disastrous was with prime time TV show 60 Minutes – who paid her about £40,000 for the segment.

Belle refused to state what age she was and also claimed she had "two birth certificates" and had her name "changed four times".

After Belle's lies were exposed, Apple dropped her and a sensational lawsuit followed in 2017.

She was found guilty of five breaches of consumer law and fined $410,000 (£240,000).

The judge said the money should be donated to “some or all” of the organisations and people Gibson had promised it to.

She has now disappeared completely from the public eye and has refused to apologise.

The last time Belle was seen in public, she was dressed in Ethiopian attire and called herself "Sobantu".

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She was reportedly fundraising for an Ethiopian charity.

The Search For Instagram’s Worst Con Artist is on ITVx now

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