‘We were so close – like family,’ Rachael tells New Idea of Hanna Dickenson and her parents Sue and Jeff.
‘Sue asked us for the money. She said there was treatment in Germany and it was going to cost $40,000.
‘She said their son Ashley was going to put in $20,000, but they still needed $20,000. Jeff said to Nathan: “You’ll have your money back in three months.”’
Rachael and Nathan didn’t have that type of money lying around. But desperate to help their close friends, the couple decided to redraw the money from their mortgage.
‘I’d just had my son Toby, I was full of hormones, and emotional. It pulls at your heartstrings and you start putting yourself in their shoes,’ Rachael recalls.
‘Nathan came home from work that day, we looked at each other and we said we’ve got to help them. We’d both decided separately that we had to find the money.’
Rachael trusted her neighbours completely.
‘We knew them for at least three years before they approached us for the money. We loved them like family members. Two or three times a week they would come over to our place for a drink and nibbles.
‘Hanna even did a reading for us at our youngest son’s naming day. We don’t have any parents here, so it was good to have an extended family next door.’
But then, alarm bells started to ring in Rachael’s mind.
‘When Hanna came to our house, she seemed perfectly fine. We would say: “You are looking good, how are you feeling?”
And she would say: “Oh yeah, yeah, pretty good.”
‘She and her boyfriend would come over and have quite a few drinks with us and I would be left thinking: “I am pretty sure you shouldn’t be having alcohol when you are having that kind treatment.”’
For someone supposedly clinging to life, Hanna had an extremely active social life in Melbourne where she lived – according to her Facebook and Instagram accounts.
‘At the same time we were told she’s in palliative care, we’re seeing all these pictures of Hanna out partying and holidaying in Bali and Thailand,’ Rachael recalls.
‘She would take photos of herself eating these wonderful meals, drinking cocktails. But people having cancer treatment often can’t even hold down a glass of water.’
It was a dreadful thought that Rachael batted out of her mind: ‘Sue is a registered nurse, she’s been through cancer, her brother’s got cancer, her brother’s wife died last year from cancer – wouldn’t she know if her daughter had cancer?’
However, during a work trip two years ago, Rachael made a truly shocking discovery.
‘I had to go down to Melbourne for training and this building was a real estate place. Hanna worked for the same company. I looked in and
I thought I saw Hanna. But this is when she is supposed to be in palliative care. I just stopped and looked, and when she saw me, she couldn’t run out of that building quick enough. I thought: “That’s my confirmation right there.”’
Rachael and Nathan went to the police, an investigation was launched, and it led to an equally shocking conclusion: Hanna wasn’t sick.
Like infamous cancer faker Belle Gibson, she had been lying about her diagnosis.
Hanna, 24, admitted seven counts of obtaining property by deception. She was jailed for three months in April.
Melbourne Magistrates Court heard Hanna told her parents she was dying, duping them into asking their family and friends for money – which she used to party with friends, splashing out on drugs, drink and holidays.
She has since been released on bail pending an appeal against her sentence.
The appeal is set to be heard on June 19.
‘She has never tried to apologise. Her parents haven’t tried to approach us with any remorsefulness or an explanation. Nothing at all. It’s devastating,’ Rachael says.
And she’s not the only one who fell into Hanna’s web of lies.
The mother of a former school friend opened up to New Idea about Hanna’s lavish lifestyle, explaining: ‘The first time I met her out of school, she turned up to my house in a silver convertible. Then she turned up in a new black Jeep.
‘Her Facebook... was full, of partying, eating out, holidays, at the races – just one big brag account, really.
‘She always had lots of money, she led us to believe her parents were rich and spoiled her. She had an awesome apartment in Melbourne.’
The mum adds: ‘I’m disgusted by what she’s done.’
This article originally appeared on New Idea.