Samantha Azzopardi: On the street with no name

A face without a name, a present without a past.

Since a girl, now known to be Australian woman Samantha Azzopardi, was discovered in a distressed state on Dublin’s O’Connell St last month, gardaí have been looking to fill in the blanks.

That path led to the High Court, where permission was given to issue a photograph of the girl, who at first was believed to be from Eastern Europe and a potential victim of child trafficking. Even with that imprimatur, gardaí had to weigh up a number of concerns, not least that she was obviously in a vulnerable state and subject of a care order. The decision to issue a picture was vindicated when relatives made contact with gardaí in what has been a unique and trying case.

It prompted recollections of another peculiar, but entirely different case previously featured in this newspaper, the intriguing story of a man known by his eye-catching name, Maximillan Jordann.

He was found in North Earl St in Dublin at 2am on Feb 15, 2003. In his early 30s, he was wearing a light grey pin-striped Pierre Cardin suit and shirt, a black tie, black slip-on shoes, and a gold chain. He was carrying a suitcase containing items of clothing and said he had received a bang to the head.

He had no identification and gardaí issued a photograph of the man, who gave himself the unusual name of Maximillan. While he spoke with an accent which might have been Eastern European, gardaí believed he could have been living in Ireland for some time when he was found. He had no injuries and talked about South Africa. He also gave gardaí an email address for which he had no password.

The Missing Persons Bureau was notified and a picture was released to the press, with his agreement. He even made a brief appearance on Crimeline. By this time, he was being treated at the Mater Hospital, having been checked in on the day of a massive anti-war march in Dublin.

Amnesia is a recognised feature of several conditions, but as psychiatric staff at the hospital went through a battery of tests, no firm memories were triggered. Along with the drugs administered and various other methods employed in a bid to help him remember who he was and where he came from, Maximillan was under constant observation. He was also scanned for traces of a brain tumour.

Among the measures used were brain scans, psychological tests, EEG, and intravenous injections known as abreactions or “truth drugs”. These were formerly barbiturates but, by 2003, Valium was used. As a relaxant, it flows through the system with the aim of opening up a patient’s powers of recall — except it didn’t work.

In an attempt to prise open his memory via linguistics, representatives from various embassies visited him in the Mater. They spoke in their native tongues in the hope of triggering something. Nothing worked. Jordann had perfect English and was well spoken, but despite his accent did not seem to know any other language.

While on the ward he conversed with other patients, and smoked cigarettes in the designated areas. He went out and bought new clothes — he was allowed out of the open ward where he stayed. He did, however, have to stay on the ward for most of the day and at night. He watched TV, but was not a big reader.

Maximillan had some pockets of memory, fragments from his childhood. This, again, is consistent with forms of memory loss. However, as tests progressed, doctors established that the cause of his memory loss was neither organic nor psychological.

Amnesia can be categorised in four ways: That caused by a physical impact or trauma to the brain; amnesia linked to depression; psychogenic amnesia, where someone represses memory of a specific incident and related memories; and the fourth category, malingered amnesia — essentially someone pretending to have amnesia.

Reading between the lines, it seems that, in this particular case, there were strong suspicions that Maximillan either knew who he was all along or recovered sufficiently to remember, but did not pass this development on to the authorities.

Once Maximillan was discharged, he was taken into Garda custody and moves began to deport him, although nobody is quite sure to where. It is understood he was taken to Cloverhill Prison and the case came before Judge James Paul McDonnell at Tallaght Court on Oct 2, 2003. The charge was failing to produce documents or a registration certificate which satisfactorily proved his identity or nationality contrary to Section 6.1 of the Aliens Act 1935 as amended by section 10 of the Immigration Act 1999. However, the charges were dismissed. Earlier in the year, don’t forget, his very lack of identification was the cause for a national appeal.

After that, like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects, he was gone. Nobody seems sure where, but certainly out of the jurisdiction and possibly under his own steam. At the time, the Irish Maximillan Council said Jordann would have been stateless and so could only have been deported if an embassy had claimed him.

Phonecalls yesterday failed to add any new information regarding this case, which seems very different to that of an obviously stricken and traumatised Australian woman now thrust into the national spotlight.

What became of Maximillan is a mystery. Hopefully, the latest case will have something approaching a happy ending.


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