Throughout the week – since her arrest at the Champalimaud Foundation in Lisbon – Albufeira has been abuzz with the controversy of alleged “cancer cheat” Daniela Costa, a 32-year-old mother of three who has purportedly raised thousands of euros for treatment for an illness she doesn’t have.
Over the weekend tabloids Correio da Manhã and Jornal de Notícias revealed that Costa has been claiming to have cancer for the last two years.
According to her story, it began in her uterus, then extended to her lungs and bones.
Throughout this time she has raised tens of thousands of euros in fundraising parties, campaigns, shows and crowdfunding initiatives.
According to CM, one British couple of residents handed Costa €14,000 that they had raised on her behalf.
The woman, said to have “always been problematic”, “shaved her head” and “used an oxygen pump to give more credibility to her story”, said the paper – stressing that she even managed to dupe her family.
But could Daniela be suffering from a bizarre case of Munchhausen’s syndrome? That’s the question puzzling all those who know her and this story, as well as PSP police who arrested Costa at the Champalimaud Foundation where she was apparently taking pictures of herself with bona-fide cancer patients to upload onto her fundraising Facebook page.
Says JN, Costa was taken to a psychiatric unit in Lisbon where she is being evaluated by doctors today (Monday).
A family source tells the paper that the exercise will try and established whether Costa is really suffering from Munchhausen’s – a “factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease to draw attention” to themselves (Wikipedia), or whether this has been an attempt at something far more sinister.
Says JN, “opinions are divided between those who pure and simply condemn Daniela Costa for allegedly simulating her illness, and others who believe her behaviour is the result of mental disorder.
“There is also an increasing number of people who suspect she has not been acting alone and that there is an accomplice and beneficiary of the alleged fraud”.
Thus, for now, it is a matter of waiting to see what happens next.
JN adds that suspicions started being flagged by people who felt “something wasn’t adding up”.
For example, Costa always dyed her hair (when she was not sporting a shaved head) and used gel nails – “practices that are not advised for cancer patients”.
In UK, the justgiving crowdfunding site has run an appeal for Costa.
In the section for messages of support, two separate sources have sounded warnings.
One, from Almada, writes: “This woman, Daniela Costa, is a scam, she is a mocker, she is not sick, she does not have cancer, she has been pretending for years all over the country”.
Another suggests Costa has “lived this way all her life taking money from people”.
The page appears to have been closed, having raised £515.