An Australian woman who hit the headlines here in 2013 after convincing gardaí she was a child sex trafficking victim and who was later deported from Canada after making similar claims, has now appeared in court in her home country after claiming to be a 13-year-old abuse victim.
In 2013, Samantha Azzopardi, who is now 28, was found wandering in a distressed state outside the GPO in Dublin.
Apparently speaking no English, she was taken into protective custody and kept under armed guard at Temple Street Children’s Hospital after officers became convinced she was a child trafficking victim.
However, two weeks into the investigation officers began to have concerns about the true nature of what was happening and sought permission from the High Court to publish a picture of the ‘teenager’ to help with identifying her.
Within days, they were contacted by relatives of Ms Azzopardi, who confirmed her true identity — that she was a 25-year-old woman who had arrived in Ireland to visit a friend of the family in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
It subsequently emerged that the woman had 40 different aliases in Australia for making similar claims. Ms Azzopardi was sent back to Australia from Ireland after the incident.
A number of months later, Ms Azzopardi told authorities in Canada she was kept in a cage in a children’s hospital and abused for two weeks.
She said she was a teenager called Aurora Hepburn, and had filed a false missing person report under a separate alias in an attempt to convince officers of her claim.
However, after becoming concerned about certain facts in the case, Canadian police contacted gardaí to establish if they were dealing with the same woman. It was then determined that Aurora Hepburn was, in fact, Samantha Lyndell Azzopardi. She was subsequently deported from that country.
Now she has appeared in a court in Australia claiming to be a 13. A report by the Australian Associated Press said she “recycled” her previous claims of being a victim of sexual abuse and human trafficking.
She has now pleaded guilty to four counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception while going by the name Harper Hart.
She did not apply for bail and is due to appear again in court on June 28.
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