Mum lied about daughter having terminal brain cancer

 

The actions of a Brisbane mum who lied about her daughter having terminal cancer and created a bucket list to tick off experiences before the five-year-old died were "appalling and egregious in every respect", a court has heard.

Renee Jocelyn O'Brien pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud after raising more than $10,000 from GoFundMe and other donations for a daughter she claimed would die in 18 months from an aggressive brain tumour.

Magistrate Mark Nolan sentenced O'Brien to a nine-month prison term, wholly suspended for two years, and placed her on a one year probation order, with a restitution order of $8,990.

Renee Jocelyn O'Brien has pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud after raising more than $10,000 from GoFundMe and other donations for a daughter she claimed would die in 18 months. Picture: Facebook
Renee Jocelyn O'Brien has pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud after raising more than $10,000 from GoFundMe and other donations for a daughter she claimed would die in 18 months. Picture: Facebook

Police prosecutor Snr Sgt Carrie Davidson said O'Brien "fraudulently crowdfunded a campaign after claiming that her five year old daughter had a brain tumour".

The court heard doctors found a "small cyst" near the child's skull in July 18 after she was taken to hospital for headaches.

In May 2019 O'Brien told her husband and mother that the child had a brain tumour.

"This was a lie and the defendant knew it not to be true," Snr Sgt O'Brien said.

As a result the husband, who did not know his wife was lying, quit his job.

The family compiled a bucket list with the girl telling her it was a "special list of things that she would like to do".

O'Brien then began posting her child's fake illness online leading to media interviews and charity days where she even gave speeches.

The court heard experiences such as whale watching, helicopter and motorcycle rides were gifted to the family.

Renee Jocelyn O'Brien had created a bucket list to tick off experiences before her daughter died. Picture: Facebook
Renee Jocelyn O'Brien had created a bucket list to tick off experiences before her daughter died. Picture: Facebook

A childless couple who felt a bond with the daughter befriended the family and helped them tick off bucket list items.

"They took the family to the big pineapple to see fireworks, they organised charity events on the family farms," Snr Sgt Davidson said.

A GoFundMe page was set up reaping $2,340 in donations.

In August last year O'Brien, who now goes by Jones, her husband and a family friend discussed "memorial options" for the child when she passed away.

A government agency contacted Queensland Police with concerns and officers executed a search warrant at the defendant's home,

After police informed her they had evidence from the hospital that no cancer existed O'Brien admitted the ruse.

"The offending was planned and systematic … (it) has damaged the trust the community has in assisting genuine cases," Sng Sgt Davidson said.

"It is offensive to members of the community who really are struggling with cancer and its effects and who relying on the assistance that the community offers."

Legal Aid lawyer Nick Hanly said his client was of below average intellect who was told her daughter had a cyst and made a "giant leap'.

"She has started a lie and it has snowballed," he said.

"It has engrossed her life and she has continued the story."

He said O'Brien was highly stressed at the time.

Mr Nolan said the mother's actions were "appalling and egregious in every respect".

"You preyed upon the kindness, and the generosity of decent, well-meaning members of the community who read and heard about (your child's) story, these same people, extended to you and your family," he said.

"You even had your husband and two daughters, attend the Great Southern Memorial Park on the 26th of August last year to discuss a memorial ... once she died.

"The entire story was a complete fabrication, based on your repeated and outrageous lies."


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