'Cuckoo' student who duped teacher into thinking she had terminal cancer and tore her life apart

Sally Retallack was conned by Elisa Bianco and left her with "no career, no job, no husband". Photos / Facebook
Sally Retallack was conned by Elisa Bianco and left her with "no career, no job, no husband". Photos / Facebook

A British teacher who was duped into helping a "heartless" student who faked terminal cancer has revealed she lost her career, husband and job through the manipulation.

Sally Retallack was conned by Elisa Bianco, who moved in with the 49-year-old lecturer after pretending she had only three months to live and nowhere else to go.

Mrs Retallack's decision to accommodate the 22-year-old, who she used to teach, and shower her with expensive gifts and trips caused an irreparable rift with the victim's husband, Ralph.

She also gave up her job to care for Bianco and threw her a "goodbye" birthday party when she believed she was about to die.

Bianco's lies were exposed when Mrs Retallack came to surprise her at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in the UK but nobody on the renal ward, which she said she visited daily, had ever heard of her.

Bianco has now pleaded guilty to stalking, causing serious alarm or distress and was jailed for two years and eight months.

Explaining the extraordinary betrayal the court heard how Bianco became an "uninvited cuckoo" in the home and used mind games to drive a wedge between Sally and her husband - which eventually saw them split, Truro Crown Court heard.

Bianco then set Sally up with a "recently widowed" consultant physician, "John" - who was actually her using a husky voice and fake email address.

Sally and "John" became close - exchanging intimate emails - but Bianco invented a cancer diagnosis for the internet lover and killed him off before they could meet.

Her victim's life has been left in tatters and she has now moved to France, the court heard.

Jailing her, judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said: "It is a strange but very disturbing case. I can truthfully say it is the most extraordinary case I have had to deal with in a long time.

"You were like an uninvited cuckoo fledgling in the nest of a willow warbler - an unexpected offspring demanding to receive constant attention.

"Most chilling was the callous and cruel deception to create a fictitious hospital consultant. You heartlessly manipulated Mrs Retallack's deepest emotions. No sentence will compensate her."

Bianco pretended to have terminal cancer. Photo / Facebook
Bianco pretended to have terminal cancer. Photo / Facebook

Bianco met Sally when she enrolled on a college course taught by the health and social care tutor in 2009.

Before they met Mrs Retallack described herself as an "outgoing, positive, career-minded individual".

Bianco, then a 16-year-old from Fowey, Cornwall, was living with her mother and enrolled on the health and social care diploma at St Austell College, in Cornwall.

She passed her first year but after Mrs Retallack became her personal tutor in the second year, she seemed "socially isolated", the court heard.

The teenager then falsely told her personal tutor her mother and step-father were alcoholics.

Prosecuting, Philip Lee, said: "It was only discovered much later that these were lies. She became increasingly demanding, and Mrs Retallack is sure, looking back, that the defendant had, by then, begun to target her as being a supporting person."

Bianco claimed to suffer panic attacks at college - sometimes several times a day - and she always called Mrs Retallack to help.

She also said she had been diagnosed with various complex illnesses which she backed up with faked consultants letters.

Bianco later falsely alleged she had a black eye caused by her mother, and Mrs Retallack gave her £50 and her address.

Ten days after she left college with a triple distinction diploma in April 2012, Bianco arrived at Sally's home in Portscatho - saying she needed to stay for two days.

Mr Lee said: "She arrived with packed bags and Mrs Retallack took her in, initially for the weekend."

She then invented emails from her parents which she sent to Mrs Retallack and Bianco stayed for months - while her former teacher helped her with university applications.

Sally Retallack with, it is believed, her daughters. Photo / Facebook
Sally Retallack with, it is believed, her daughters. Photo / Facebook

The well-meaning mother-of-four even forked out £750 in rent and equipment for her place at uni, and the court heard the family were relieved she had left in autumn 2012. But after three weeks she came back after she phoned Mrs Retallack and said she had blood in her urine and collapsed arteries - in truth she was simply not enjoying her course.

Mrs Retallack felt compelled to let her return to the family home, where she stayed, before pretending to undergo a fake kidney removal in February 2013.

Mrs Retallack's 83-year-old mother even helped look after the perfectly healthy woman, it was heard.

But when Sally - who the defendant started calling "Mum" - asked about her getting a job in March 2013, she said she then had a benign tumour on the other kidney.

Asking to be dropped off at hospital every day, she would actually sit in the cafe in her pyjamas, buying dressings to use and forging medical letters.

Her deep-seated betrayal was backed up with faked hospital letters and she referred to medical staff by name - eventually announcing she had just months to live.

Mr Lee said: "Mrs Retallack drove her every day to the hospital and dropped her off at the reception in her pyjamas with a day bag, and every evening one of them would collect her. She said her condition was deteriorating - her cancer was malignant and growing - and eventually she told them she had three months to live and produced more forged letters and hospital forms to convince them."

Fed-up with the impact the defendant had on family life, Mr Retallack eventually left his wife, it was heard.

Mr Lee said: "Mrs Retallack describes how they had become estranged as a result of the overwhelming effect of the defendant's needs upon their family life, and, as she puts it, he had sought solace elsewhere. The defendant's deceit though continued relentlessly."

Pretending she was in constant pain, Bianco started sleeping in Mrs Retallack's bed so Sally could care for her 24 hours a day.

But then Bianco set up Mrs Retallack with her consultant physician "John", who she said had recently lost his wife.

In July 2013, Mrs Retallack and "John" - who was actually Bianco in disguise - started emailing and their "friendship blossomed".

Bianco's deceit caused an irreparable rift with the victim's husband, Ralph. Photo / Facebook
Bianco's deceit caused an irreparable rift with the victim's husband, Ralph. Photo / Facebook

The court heard he "seemed the perfect man" and their correspondence became "intimate" but when they arranged to meet he said he had lung cancer.

"In fact, all the emails and all this contact with the consultant were a complete fiction invented and maintained, day after day, by the defendant," Mr Lee said.

Meanwhile Bianco told Mrs Retallack she wanted to die at home and she forked out £2000 on a bucket list of activities, as well as a "final" birthday party in August 2013.

Friends were duped by the compulsive liar and cried at the party, with one even bringing a locket for her to be buried wearing, the court heard.

But when Bianco threatened to take her own life, Mrs Retallack insisted they drive to see the consultant "John".

As they drove, heartless Bianco asked Mrs Retallack to pull over and read her a text message saying he had died.

The court heard she even sent a devastated Mrs Retallack an invented death-bed love note and flowers which tragically arrived the day after he "passed away".

But the family grew suspicious and Mr Retallack confronted her but her lies were "so plausible and convincing" he "felt embarrassed" having questioned her.

During the course of his digging, Mr Retallack tracked down Bianco's father who "told him something" of the truth. Then on August 12, 2013, after Bianco said her father was planning to take her home, Mrs Retallack went to hospital where she discovered the truth.

Staff at the renal ward in Royal Cornwall Hospital said they had no knowledge of the defendant.

On leaving the hospital she saw Bianco sitting in the cafe in her pyjamas and when she asked if she had made it all up she simply answered "yes".

A month later the fraudster was questioned by police and confessed she had lied about her home life and medical conditions, forged letters and created a fake email account.

- Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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