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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 11:44 GMT
Mother fakes daughter's 'cancer' for cash
Police display of the collection tins Teresa Milbrandt placed around the town
The little girl was sent to counselling to prepare for her death
A mother has admitted tricking her neighbours and family into believing that her daughter had cancer in order to raise money, according to police in the US state of Ohio.

Teresa Milbrandt even gave the seven-year-old sleeping pills and then shaved her head to simulate the side-effects of chemotherapy, officers said.

Her efforts resulted in donations of more than $10,000 from businesses and residents in the town of Urbana, the police estimated.

"She said it was a little white lie that got out of control," Sergeant David Reese said.

Husband 'did not know'

Police are now investigating Mrs Milbrandt, 35, her husband Robert, and an unidentified third person, but no charges have yet been filed.

The child, Hannah, has been put in the care of relatives.

Mr Milbrandt denied any knowledge of the elaborate hoax and said he had taken his wife to a mental hospital on Tuesday.

How could a mother do something like that to her child?... it just floors me

Melonie Jumper
Urbana resident
"I don't know how you can be married to someone for so long, them lie to you and you not know," he told the Urbana Daily Citizen on Thursday, according to the Associated Press news agency.

However, Sergeant Reese said Mr Milbrandt told the police he had discovered the scam about a month ago. Police said it had been going on since April.

Internet research

Mrs Milbrandt described to police some of the elements of the hoax:

  • She would tell Hannah they were going to hospital to receive treatment, drive until she fell asleep, and then tell she had had her treatment when she woke up
  • She took her daughter to counselling to prepare to die
  • She put a plaster on the girl's back and told people it covered a "port" where chemotherapy was administered
  • She gave her sleeping pills before shaving her head

"Whenever anybody would ask her a question about leukaemia, she would go on the Internet and look up the answers," Sergeant Reese said.

Officers say Mrs Milbrandt produced leaflets with photos of Hannah, and placed collection tins in shops inviting donations for supposed treatment.

But sharp-eyed school staff noticed tell-tale stubble on the girl's head - suggesting the hair had been cut, and was not falling out. They told police of their suspicions last week.

Stunned neighbours

Residents of Urbana, a small town about 40 miles (64 kilometres) north-west of the state capital, Columbus, were shocked at the news that Hannah's illness was a hoax.

"How could a mother do something like that to her child?" Melonie Jumper was quoted as saying.

"I can't believe somebody could be so cruel to make the townspeople come forth with an effort to help them because there's a sick child. It just floors me."

Tish Turnmore - who runs the local nail salon - raised more than $700, while a church donated $2,200 and two agencies gave $500 each.

"You do something out of the goodness of your heart thinking that you're helping, and you find out that they've been lying to you all this time," Ms Turnmore said.

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