Waterloo teacher accused of faking cancer
Breanne McGuire, a teacher with the Waterloo school board, is accused of duping supporters out of thousands of dollars.
She is also the latest Ontario woman — the third in the past year — to be accused of faking cancer and duping supporters out of thousands of dollars.
McGuire was arrested last October — a couple months after Ashley Kirilow, and one month before Jessica Leeder, the two women found guilty earlier this year of unrelated cancer frauds.
At the time, Waterloo police did not make McGuire’s arrest public in order to protect the woman from negative publicity, they said Thursday.
The school board was notified, trustees were briefed behind closed doors and the Ontario College of Teachers was alerted. But the media and the general public were kept in the dark.
“[Investigators] didn’t want to do the media release for fear of her well-being,” said Waterloo police Insp. Greg Lamport.
She was on leave from her teaching duties at the time of her arrest and was not in the classroom, the school board said.
Like Kirilow and Leeder, McGuire’s alleged to have shaved her head to look like a cancer patient, told friends and colleagues she was abandoned and alone in the world and then took advantage of their sympathy and generosity as they organized fundraising events and handed over cash for non-existent treatments.
The biggest — and most curious — difference is McGuire’s social status and professional career. Kirilow and Leeder were almost a decade younger, with fledgling employment and rocky family lives.
But the fact that McGuire did not appear to need the money she allegedly stole reinforces what judges and psychiatrists have said about previous cancer-con cases — it’s not about the money.
For Kirilow and Leeder — as well as about a dozen others across North America accused of faking cancer in the last couple of years — the driving motive is attention, experts say. Justice Fred Forsythe went so far as to say Kirilow was “intoxicated” by sympathy.
McGuire started teaching special education at Hespeler Public School in 2007. She allegedly told staff — and later her students — of her cancer diagnosis soon after joining the school.
She said she had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer of nerve tissues common among infants, but hardly ever contracted by adults.
McGuire’s colleagues say they drove her to doctors’ appointments, cooked meals for her when she took sick leaves from the school, and even saw grief counselors. They cried together around the staff room table, and marvelled at the “miracle baby” McGuire gave birth to while supposedly undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
McGuire’s closest colleagues organized “Breanne’s Hope,” a fundraiser at The Velvet Lounge in Cambridge on Aug. 28, 2008. The event raised $14,000, according to police, all of which was given to McGuire.
“The very best part of the night was that Breanne was able to join us to see how many people out there are supporting her in her battle against neuroblastoma,” wrote Pam and Rob Fanjoy in a letter to CambridgeTimes.ca in August 2008.
McGuire is still employed by the board, but she will not be allowed back in the classroom until her charges are resolved. She has yet to enter a plea in court.
Her lawyer, Bruce Ritter, said he is currently negotiating with the Crown to see if they can come to an agreement on a plea and avoid trial.
A man who answered the door Thursday afternoon at McGuire’s home in Baden, just west of Kitchener, refused to comment.