The lecturer whose life was ruined by teenage college student who took advantage of her generous nature by pretending to have terminal cancer has branded the con trick “sick, sick, sick”.
Sally Retallak, 49, allowed Elisa Bianco to move into her family home and spent thousands of pounds taking her on expensive trips and making her “bucket list” wishes come true.
Bianco’s presence in the family home even led to Mrs Retallak leaving her job and splitting with her husband Ralph, with the academic only discovering that Bianco had been lying about being ill when she saw her sitting in a café in her pyjamas instead of receiving cancer treatment in hospital.
“Every single thing she told me for four years - two years at college and two years living at my home - was a pack of lies,” Mrs Retallak told the Mirror.
“I was showering Elisa and her hair was falling out in clumps as you’d expect with someone having chemotherapy…I only found out later she was cutting her hair at the roots so it would fall out as I combed it,” she added.
Mrs Retallak revealed that although Bianco claimed to have been kicked out of her family home, she was actually still receiving money from her parents, using it to buy bandages to make her lie more convincing.
Mrs Retallak said she would drop the student off at hospital every morning, only to later learn that Bianco would change out of her pyjamas as soon as the academic left and spend the day “on a jolly”.
Life in the Retallak household grew strained as Bianco demanded more and more attention, ensuring she had a “medical emergency” whenever Mrs Retallak tried to spend time with family and even climbing into the couple’s bed in the middle of the night.
“Me and my husband became estranged because of the pressure…the second we talked, Elisa would have a medical emergency. She managed to get between me and my four children and isolate me,” she said.
Bianco’s deception was so organised that she used two laptops, five mobile phones and a voice-morphing app to pretend to be different people, including hospital staff, when contacting Mrs Retallak.
Bianco even created a fake hospital consultant named “John”, who she used to manipulate Mrs Retallak even further and start an internet romance with the lecturer. In a particularly cruel twist, Bianco later killed this character off when Mrs Retallak suggested the pair meet.
Describing the incident, the lecturer said: “It’s just sick, sick, sick…I got compassionate leave from work to look after her but I didn’t go back afterwards because I was not capable of it.
"When I looked at that girl in the dock I still couldn’t comprehend it was all a pack of lies. But all the tests on her mental condition came back negative,” she added.
Although she was left traumatised by the ordeal, Mrs Retallak is now attempting to rebuild her life running a bed and breakfast in France.
“I’m now just a completely different person. I’m divorced from my husband and this has totally finished my life as I know it. I was a well-paid lecturer for ten years but now I’ve lost my career” she said.
Sentencing Bianco to two years and eight months in jail yesterday, judge Christopher Harvey Clark said: “I can truthfully say 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,” he added.