| 3.8°C Belfast

'Lost girl' Samantha Azzopardi is Australian con artist: Gardai consider time-wasting charge after ID search cost £200,000

The mysterious 'lost girl' found wandering in O'Connell Street in Dublin has a string of convictions for fraud offences in Australia.

Samantha Azzopardi (25), who has up to 40 different aliases, is well known to police in New South Wales and has been involved in similar circumstances to the one in Dublin when she was found wandering the streets.

She refused to speak, only communicated through drawings, leading the authorities to suspect she was a victim of trafficking, and was also thought to be a young teenager. The investigation to uncover her identity has cost the Irish State £200,000.

Gardai will now have to decide on whether to charge her with wasting police time.

A psychiatric evaluation of Ms Azzopardi was ordered yesterday and a court is expected to decide whether she will remain in the care of the authorities.

While Irish sources confirm that Ms Azzopardi has mental health issues they revealed that she has convictions for fraud, deception, false pretences and using forged documents in Australia.

She has also been convicted of giving false names and impersonation. Her most recent court appearance was in Victoria on October 2, 2012 when she was convicted of fraud and deception offences, and given a suspended six-month jail term at the time.

A senior security source said: "She is an international woman of mystery, a scam artist, who we now believe is involved in some sort of bizarre ruse which may explain why she did not want her picture released by the gardai.

"From inquiries made in Australia a picture is emerging of a Walter Mitty-type character who assumes a persona and carries it out for criminal purposes.

"She has done this kind of thing before. This is a 'catch me if you can' scenario although it is accepted that she has psychiatric issues," the source added.

Garda sources revealed that Ms Azzopardi came to Ireland to visit relatives in Clonmel, Co Tipperary three weeks before she was found wandering in a distressed state outside the GPO on Dublin's O'Connell Street on October 10.

Ms Azzopardi was identified within hours of the gardai releasing her picture on Tuesday when an Irishman contacted gardai to confirm her true identity.

The bogus sex slave case cost the Irish State at least £170,000 in legal fees after a High Court case to stop the release of a photo.

More than 2,000 garda hours have been absorbed with the investigation, bumping the cost of the inquiry up to over £200,000.

Belfast Telegraph