It's hard to get the measure of Belle Gibson.
At first, she seems gullible, muddled and emotional. She tells stories that are frustratingly vague, unverifiable and sometimes far-fetched.
When pressed by The Weekly, she’s often unable to provide details such as names, locations and dates. Nor explain why her behaviour, even by her own telling, often seems irrational and illogical.
Why, for example, did she never have a brain scan? Wasn’t she terrified to find out she was pregnant with her son after allegedly being given months to live? Why would she devote so much time and energy into developing The Whole Pantry app (including time away from her son) if she believed she was dying?
In response, she claims to have been naïve, to have trusted the wrong people and to have honestly believed she was healing herself of cancer. She didn’t have a parent figure to guide her, she says.
Even so, she still shows a remarkable lack of insight when looking back on her behaviour.
Belle appears unworldly yet claims to have left home at 12 and lived independently ever since. As a child, she says her mother changed her name five times for reasons she doesn’t comprehend. The Weekly was unable to find anyone who knew her or her family before her teenage years to check this – and Belle herself was unwilling to assist on this.
There are other aspects to her story that don’t add up and can’t adequately be explained: Belle dropped out of school and has no training in web development yet managed to develop the top-selling and slickly-photographed wholefood app, The Whole Pantry.
Challenge her on events in her past – such as her dramatic claim that she died for almost three minutes during heart surgery in Perth in 2009 - and she goes blank, says she doesn’t know or attempts to minimize its importance.
At other times, such as when recounting being given her two alleged cancer diagnoses, she dissolves into tears.
Because of the nature of Belle’s story, The Weekly attempted to check as much as possible. We spoke to people from her past – none of whom would agree to be named as they did not wish to be publicly associated with her – looked over documents, invoices, health tests and emails, made formal checks with organisations and tracked down one of the alternative health practitioners who treated her.
At the end of the day, however, there do appear to be a few certainties about Belle.
Belle is a troubled young woman. She feels she’s been unfairly treated. And her spectacular fall from grace makes it unlikely she will exert such powerful influence in the field of alternative health ever again.
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Australian Women's WeeklyToday 11:49am