Hanna Dickenson, a 24-year-old Australian woman, collected money from both family and friends by pretending to be suffering from cancer in order to fund years of benders and vacations.
Dickenson told her parents that she had been diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a cancer that develops in soft tissue like blood vessels, muscle, and fat. She convinced them that she had mere weeks to live and that the cancer had not responded to treatment at either Epworth or Peter MacCallum hospitals.
Nathan and Rachel Cue, long-time neighbors and friends of Dickenson’s parents, took tens of thousands from their mortgage despite a struggling family business in a desperate attempt to save Hanna’s life.
But Dickenson repaid their collective 42,000 AUD ($32,552) with years of hard partying, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and overseas vacations — all on their dime. Interspersed with that were visits in which she would complain about her supposedly failing health. “It’s terrible to think someone could put a front on as one person, and be totally different,” said the Cues.
Magistrate David Starvaggi has sentenced Dickenson for “despicable” actions that “tear at the very heartstrings of human nature.” Now, she will have to pay up. Dickenson will spend three months in prison, followed by a 12-month community corrections order, and 150 hours of community service, in addition to seeking treatment for both substance abuse and mental health. Further, she will forfeit her job as property manager at Little Real Estate in Melbourne.
“The court must rightly deter others from engaging in this sort of conduct, taking advantage of people willing to assist and advance moneys to support somebody in what is perceived to be very tragic or dire consequences,” Starvaggi said.
Dickenson’s lawyer has protested these consequences, maintaining that while “she has harmed some people,” she “didn’t ask them directly.” The lawyer argued that her actions should be excused because “she hasn’t engaged in this behavior for three years, she’s been a model worker … she’s turned her life around, she’s proven that. To send her to prison now sends her backwards.”
She will spend that time going backward without a deadly cancer and with more than enough time to live to think about the consequences of her actions. Hopefully, that time is worth more than thirty grand.