A mum who lost her seven-month-old daughter to a terminal illness is going through fresh heartache after discovering her baby’s pictures on fake Instagram accounts.
Rachael Casella realised her little girl’s photographs had been stolen from her profile and, worse still, were being used to scam money out of clueless social media users.
Mackenzie was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy in March 2017, when she was 10 weeks old, and her parents’ "happy, blissful world" was cruelly ripped away from them.
Rachael and her husband Jonathan were told the condition – a rare neuromuscular disorder – would cause Mackenzie to lose her ability to move, swallow and eventually to breathe.
It was terminal, and their baby girl wouldn’t live to see her first birthday.
In October, Mackenzie fell ill and died in their arms aged just seven months and 11 days.
The mum, from Sydney, says she has used Instagram as a ‘form of therapy’ – "a place I could talk about our little girl to whoever wanted to listen, to celebrate her."
The couple also wanted to raise awareness of SMA and change how genetic testing is done in Australia in order to save other children’s lives.
But this has been exploited by cruel trolls who have stolen the images for their own financial gain, she tells Mirror Online.
Rachael posted on Instagram yesterday to share her disgust, saying: "For the past three weeks I have been fighting off despicable humans who have stolen Mackenzie’s story and identity to scam people out of money.
"They call her Sophie and ask people for money to help her. Many people have lost money believing they are doing something kind."
She also scared screenshots containing all of the photos stolen from her account, and claims she has reported the fake profiles to Instagram more than 50 times.
The profiles Rachael listed are no longer visible on the site, but she says even when the social platform has taken action and deleted the accounts, they have been reactivated or had a name change the next day.
Since Australian media covered the fake Instagram accounts, Rachael says she made the mistake of reading the comments – and found people were blaming her.
"The comments primarily focus on calling us idiots for putting photos of Mackenzie on Instagram.
"They blame us, the victims. They call us narcissistic for telling our story and for wanting sympathy. They tease our need for money to under go IVF."
Rachael and Jonathan have been desperately trying to raise awareness of the disorder and to improve genetic testing in Australia.
She said: "For a year we campaigned, we met with prominent people, with politicians, with scientists who agreed with our aims and we raised awareness through my Instagram @mylifeof_love, my blog www.mylifeoflove.com and slowly we built an army, Mackenzie’s army."
The heartbroken mum has called for people to report the fake Instagram accounts and try to put an end to the disturbing scam.
"A place I go to share my grief, connect with people and feel part of a community is hurting us. It isn’t good enough.”
She has one devastating plea: "I am so tired. My family has been through hell this last year. Can we please just have some happiness? I am so sick of fighting people, organisations and systems. Enough!"
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