Teacher loses marriage, home and job after student fakes terminal cancer to get her to look after her
A “heartless” student who ruined her female lecturer’s life by faking terminal cancer before conning her until she lost her marriage, home and job has been jailed for two years.
Elisa Bianco, 22, conned Sally Retallack, 49, into believing she was about to die, caused an irreparable rift with her husband, Ralph, and then posed as a man to seduce her online.
Bianco met the mother-of-four on a college course and convinced her to let her move into her home by pretending she had only three months to live and had been abused by her parents, Truro Crown Court heard.
The student faked a terminal kidney tumour and Mrs Retallack helped Bianco fulfil a ‘bucket list’, which included expensive gifts, trips and a ‘goodbye’ party for friends to say farewell before she died.
Bianco would be dropped off at hospital every day but would then sit in a café in her pyjamas and dress herself in fake bandages. She even pretended she had had her kidney removed.
But her lies were exposed when Mrs Retallack, who gave up work to nurse her through her final days, tried to surprise her at the Royal Cornwall Hospital and discovered nobody on the renal ward had ever heard of her.
Bianco, from Fowey, Cornwall, pleaded guilty to stalking, causing serious alarm or distress on Friday and was jailed for two years and eight months.
The court heard how Bianco became an ‘uninvited cuckoo’ in the Retallack home and used mind games to drive a wedge between Sally and her husband – which eventually saw them split.
Bianco then set Sally up with a ‘recently widowed’ consultant physician called John – who was actually her, using a ‘husky’ voice and a fake email address.
Sally and ‘John’ became close and exchanged intimate emails but Bianco then invented a cancer diagnosis for the internet lover and killed him off before they could meet.
Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said: “It is the most extraordinary case I have had to deal with in a long time.
“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.”
Sally Retallack’s life has been left in tatters and she has now moved to France, the court heard.
Bianco was just 16 when she met Sally after she enrolled on a college course at St Austell College in Cornwall in 2009. Her course was taught by the health and social care tutor.
Over the next few years she made up various lies about her parents being alcoholics and eventually was invited to stay at the Retallack family home.
The well-meaning mother eventually forked out £750 in rent and equipment for Bianco’s place at university but after three weeks, Bianco came back after telling Mrs Retallack she had blood in her urine and collapsed arteries.
Mrs Retallack felt compelled to let her return to the house, where she stayed, before pretending to undergo a fake kidney removal in February 2013.
Prosecuting Philip Lee said: “She said her condition was deteriorating – her cancer was malignant and growing – and eventually she told them she had three months to live and forged more letters and hospital forms to convince them.”
Pretending she was in constant pain, Bianco started sleeping in Mrs Retallack’s bed so Sally could care for her 24 hours a day.
Bianco then set up Mrs Retallack with her consultant physician ‘John’ who she said had recently lost his wife.
Sally and John’s ‘friendship blossomed’ and their correspondence became ‘intimate’ but when they arranged to meet he said he had lung cancer.
When Mrs Retallack insisted they drive to see the consultant ‘John’ after Retallack threatened to take her own life following a ‘final’ goodbye party, heartless Bianco asked Sally to pull over and read her a text message saying he had died.
Mr Lee said: “She showed her a text message supposedly from a nurse to the effect: ‘John’s heart is going to fail…don’t think he’s going to make it…’ then a further message: ‘gone’.”
Mrs Retallack discovered Bianco’s lies on August 12, 2013 when she tried to surprise her at the hospital only to be told by staff that they had no knowledge of the defendant.
On leaving the hospital, Sally saw Bianco sitting in the café in her pyjamas and when she asked if she had made it all up she simply answered ‘yes’.
Sally then found receipts for dressings at her home and a device which ‘made the noise that she claimed was the sound of her ribs cracking’.
Mrs Retallack sobbed in court as she read out a victim impact statement about how Bianco had torn apart her family.
She said: “I was an outgoing, positive, career minded individual who loved her job and developed a real pride and satisfaction nurturing the young people who would be in my care.
“I had a close, loving home life. My entire family had empathy for Elisa’s personal situation and welcomed her into our home.
“Now I have no career, no job, no husband, little self-confidence and have recently started to try and rebuilt my life by moving to France.
“Very gradually throughout the period that Elisa was in my life, she manipulated her way daily more deeply into my life by lying, acting, increasing dependency by creating a fictional realm of both physical and emotional circumstances that subtly started to build barriers between myself and my friends and family.
“I truly believed she had no one else. I have to live with this guilt and the consequences forever.”