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In October 2013 a distressed young girl was found wandering O'Connell Street in the centre of Dublin. She seemed disoriented and upset. When Gardaí approached her to find out what was wrong, she wouldn’t - or couldn’t – speak.
The girl was brought to Temple Street children’s hospital. For four weeks she remained silent and only communicated by drawing basic pictures of planes and men. Everyone around this girl could see she was traumatised and needed help. But Gardaí had no idea who she was or where she had come from. All evidence pointed towards her being a victim of human sex trafficking. A large-scale investigation began to find out who she was. When the girl’s true identity was revealed, it was almost as extraordinary as what was speculated to have happened to her. Her real name is Samantha Azzopardi, an Australian citizen then aged 24 years old.
After an investigation that cost the Irish state an estimated €250,000, Samantha was returned to her native Australia.
But unbelievably, less than a year later, in 2014, Samantha returned to Ireland under another false name. Her second trip to Ireland saw her travel to Leitrim where a family employed her as an au-pair for their two young children. They knew her as "Indie O’Shea" and she had a most unusual back story. She was the daughter of royalty – Prince William was her father and her mother was Princess Madeleine. She spent five weeks with the family, minding the children and becoming a part of the family for that time, before vanishing, and subsequently turning up in Canada.
Today, Samantha is 34 years old and is currently facing new charges against her in Australia. She has spent much of her time in and out of the courts, in prison, and has created over 100 fake aliases and been charged over 100 times. It's estimated that over a million euros has gone into investigations into her activities in at least three continents. But she always pleads guilty when finally found out. She has posed as a talent scout, a Russian gymnast, a nanny, a member of the Swedish royal family, in a secret U.S. Witness Protection Programme – the list goes on and on and on.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Samantha and her stories is that there seems to be no discernible motive, even though her victims, including children, have been left betrayed and traumatised.
And yet at the heart of all of these cases is a woman who everyone, including psychiatrists, agrees needs help and who herself appears hugely traumatised.
Narrated by Áine Lawlor.
Produced by Tim Desmond and Nicoline Greer in Ireland and Sharon Davis in Australia. Production assistance from Liam O'Brien and Daemon Fairless, Ashley Mak and Eunice Kim at CBC in Canada.
Music composed and performed by Paddy Flynn. You can hear more of his music and of the Roundwood Kitchen Staff here
First broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1, 2PM, Saturday 15th October 2022
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries