Belle Gibson: From cancer lies to lavish trips and house raids - where is the Instagram scammer now?

Belle Gibson, the infamous Instagram scammer, won over countless people with her seemingly inspiring story. The now-disgraced wellness guru rose to fame after claiming she cured her terminal brain cancer through healthy eating and alternative treatments, having been given just four months to live.

In early 2013, at the tender age of 21, Belle launched an Instagram account, Healing Belle, filled with her supposedly miraculous wholefood recipes.

Many facing devastating diagnoses put their trust in the Australian single mum, and shockingly, some even chose to reject life-saving chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments to follow her natural path. Her Instagram success led to a paid-for app, The Whole Pantry, which was crowned Apple's Best Food and Drink App of 2013, earning Belle hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Belle Gibson
Belle garnered thousands of fans before her downfall -Credit:BBC/Minnow Films/Brent Parker Jones

This was followed by a lucrative publication deal worth nearly £220,000 with Penguin Random House for a book of the same name. Belle described the book as detailing her "quest to heal myself naturally... empowering myself to save my own life, through nutrition, patience, determination, and love as well as vitamin and Ayurvedic treatments, craniosacral therapy, and a whole lot of other treatments."

In a shocking turn of events, the infamous wellness guidebook was pulled from publication in March 2015 once it surfaced that Belle's 'cancer journey' was nothing more than smoke and mirrors - she'd never had cancer at all, reports the Mirror.

Doubts began to cloud around the blogger when it came to light that promised donations of thousands to charity fell short. Shortly thereafter, Belle claimed to have been misdiagnosed with numerous cancers - blood, spleen, uterus, even liver, yet she maintained her terminal brain cancer was legitimate.

She refused to present any medical records or proof to back up her alarming health claims. Both law enforcement and journalists Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano delved into her suspicious narrative, documenting their findings in The Woman Who Fooled the World.

In April 2015, Belle finally came clean about her deceit during a bombshell interview with Australian Women's Weekly. She confessed, "None of it's true. I don't want forgiveness. I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, 'OK, she's human'."

This stunning admission left those who believed in what they felt was a supportive community resulting from her online network feeling not only shaken but betrayed, growing increasingly concerned for the wellbeing of those who had relied on Belle's holistic approach.

As fans take in the fresh ITV documentary Instagram's Worst Con Artist, we investigate what Belle has been up to nearly 10 years after her façade fell apart....

Hefty fines and high-end trips

In 2017, Belle was slapped with fines running into an eye-watering £240,000 ($410,000) for cashing in on her lies.

By February 2019, adding further insult to injury, Belle still hadn't coughed up the cash - despite seemingly having more than enough coin to fund a blinging £8,000 ($15,000) five-week safari. The scandal-hit star was sprung arriving back at Melbourne airport after her plush getaway by reporter Tineka Everaardt, from telly programme A Current Affair.

Merely three months afterward, as reported by 9News, Belle suggested that her pal Clive Rothwell had played Sugar Daddy for her trip, but when probed on how he managed to fund it, she responded: "I don't know." Chiming in on A Current Affair at the time, lymphoma survivors Kylie Willey confessed she'd come close to meeting her maker after Belle's fabricated tale convinced her to ditch modern medicine for natural antitoxins.

Criticising Belle's jet-set lifestyle, Kylie, who had by then beaten cancer, fumed: "It makes my blood boil. I don't even believe she (Belle) thinks she's done anything really wrong. She can't, otherwise she'd be paying her fine not living this high life."

House raids

In January 2020, Belle's Melbourne home was raided by the police, with items seized to offset her unpaid fines that by then had escalated to over half a million dollars, penalties and interest included. A spokesperson voiced: "Consumer Affairs Victoria is committed to recovering the debt Ms Gibson owes the Victorian public and will continue to pursue Ms Gibson until it is repaid in full."

The saga continued when her home was once again stormed by the law enforcement officers in May 2021, under the 'seizure and sale' warrant, with a representative telling ABC News Australia: "Ms Gibson owes the Victorian public a substantial debt and Consumer Affairs Victoria will continue to pursue repayment."

Belle had previously claimed she'd been unable to pay the enormous fines and that she'd even considered bankruptcy. But in 2019, facts surfaced showing she had spent over £47,000 ($90,000) in just two years on trips including ones to Bali and Africa.

New name and new community

In 2020, Belle claimed she'd been 'adopted' by Melbourne's Oromo community, and that she went by the name Sabontu. In an interview shot by a community media group, Belle showed immense love for Ethiopia referring to it as her 'home' and professing profound affinity to 'the Oromo people'.

Belle opened up to Shabo Media, revealing: "My involvement in the Oromo community has been for the last four years and it started through volunteering. I became deeply invested in the community because I saw the character and the values of your people. Through the rites of the Oromo I feel completely adopted by your nation and your people."

However, in a chat with Daily Mail Australia, Dr Tarekegn Chimdi, who leads the Australian Oromo Community Association in Victoria, seemed to barely know Belle. He remarked: "She was mingling with people... We thought she might be a friend or a spouse of one of our community members."

Instagram's Worst Con Artist airs on ITV1 at 9pm on April 25, and is available to stream on ITVX