Dee Dee Blanchard forced her healthy daughter Gypsy to use a wheelchair and fabricated endless medical emergencies for her. Then Gypsy found a boyfriend, and made a grisly plan to escape her mother and start a new life. Erin Lee Carr tells a deeply disturbing story of Munchausen by proxy and murder

I have four VHS tapes in a large ziplock bag. They are family home movies, but not of my family. The label of one tape reads simply “Gypsy”. A little girl appears in the centre of the frame, her eyes are large and brown, her hair almost white blonde. She is gazing up at the camera, asking for Mama.

Born in Louisiana in 1991, Gypsy Rose Blanchard was raised solely by her mother, who was known by family and friends as Dee Dee. When the baby was three months old, Dee Dee told doctors that she didn’t seem to be breathing properly. Gypsy was diagnosed with sleep apnoea and given breathing apparatus. Dee Dee was convinced that something else was wrong. When Gypsy was seven, Dee Dee met with her extended family and told them the bad news. The little girl had a chromosomal disorder and her range of motion was limited so using a wheelchair would be a necessity. After that, the health troubles seemed endless. A feeding tube was put in when Gypsy’s weight was too low. When she was diagnosed with epilepsy, the doctors prescribed the drug Tegretol, which made her teeth crumble from inside her mouth. Gypsy’s grandparents wondered to each other if their granddaughter would even make it to adulthood.

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