'harsh' sentence | 

‘GPO Girl’ to walk free from Australian jail after posing as child sex ring victim

International con-woman Samantha Azzopardi is set to walk free after an Australian judge deemed the term for her 100th Australian offence ‘somewhat harsh’

The 'GPO Girl' Samantha Azzopardi

Jamie McDowell and Neasa CumiskeySunday World

An international con-woman known as ‘GPO Girl’ is set to walk free after an Australian judge deemed the term for her 100th Australian offence ‘somewhat harsh’.

In 2013, Samantha Azzopardi was dubbed the 'GPO Girl' after she was found wandering on O'Connell Street in a distressed state - apparently unable to speak English.

Gardai immediately began trying to find out who she was and believed she may have been a teenager from Eastern Europe who had been trafficked into the country.

However, following an investigation that cost over €250,000 and involved more than 2,000 hours, Azzopardi’s true identity was unveiled.

Gardaí secured High Court permission to release her photograph and a family member soon came forward to identify Azzopardi as a serial conwoman.

Samantha Azzopardi

She was later deported and arrived in Canada where she claimed to be a victim of sexual abuse and manipulation.

Azzopardi appeared in a Sydney courthouse yesterday to appeal a 17-month term she received in November after she led Sydney authorities, as well as the French police, on a wild goose chase after she posed as a 14-year-old French girl.

Just like in Ireland, Australian authorities suspected Azzopardi was the victim of a child sex ring before they realised it was all a con.

Previously, Azzopardi claimed she had been forcibly injected with fertility drugs, raped and held by the leaders of a cult.

At the appeal hearing, a defence lawyer for Azzopardi said she had been diagnosed with pseudologia fantastica which leads users to lie pathologically.

He said: “'In none of these offences is it clear that she stood to gain anything, apart perhaps from some care, and that ties in with what all of the reports say - that this is a deep and entrenched form of maladaptive care seeking.

“It would appear that she is trying to obtain the care that she feels she never received as a child, now as an adult, by making these fictitious accounts. No one should go to jail for that.”

The 'GPO Girl' Samantha Azzopardi

Azzopardi will now be eligible to walk free from prison on December 15 after her sentence was reduced by Judge John North by three months.

The judge said: “The file makes fairly depressive reading because it is clear that this young woman requires constant supervision and help to stop her from coming before the authorities again.

“Some of [Azzopardi´s convictions] are not just matters relating to child sexual abuse.”

He added: “Some of them have a real sense of dishonesty about them as well.”

On one occasion, she posed as an au pair to a new mother in Australia.

The woman spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald about her “unsettling” experience with the con artist.

Posing as a Polish woman, Azzopardi made her way into the lives of Theresa Power and her young family.

The mother had recently given birth to her third child and was looking for a nanny when ‘Mayer’ messaged her on Facebook in August.

“My name is Mayer. I am 19 years old and I’m from Poland

“I am always smiling, patient and calm … Please don’t hesitate to pm me.”

Power was over the moon with the new babysitter, she told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"The thing I can’t get past — and I’m sure every victim of a con feels this way — is how absolutely taken by her I was,” Power says.

“I was singing her praises to anyone who would listen, even recommending her to my neighbours. She seemed too good to be true. And obviously, in hindsight, she was.”

The family were confused when ‘Mayer’ stopped showing up to work, Power confessed. When her husband read a story about an international fraudster in the paper, a quick Google search revealed the extent of their new nanny’s crimes.

Azzopardi hadn’t ‘ghosted’ the family, she had been arrested on separate fraud charges. The scam artist had presented to a charity, pretending to be an abused French teenager and sparked a multi-agency investigation.

She was been accused of impersonating a 14-year-old French victim of sex trafficking who arrived in Australia to live with a foster family.

“I was terrified. Sick to my stomach,” Power said. “I had a pretty bad night’s sleep and called the police to report what had happened to us, first thing in the morning.”

The woman admitted that she missed a “number of red flags” when dealing with Azzopardi.

She never saw her passport, never received a mobile phone number or an email address for the woman. They only communicated on Facebook Messenger and Azzopardi had said she “had not been in the country long enough” to be vetted to work with children.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian police found “no offence” when looking into Power’s complaint.

The mother has now issued a warning to people hiring babysitters through social media.

"It’s a big decision, trusting your baby with someone and we placed so much weight on our gut instinct. It’s a very unsettling experience to realise that you can’t only rely on your gut feeling. It’s not enough,” she said.

Azzopardi has invented a number of bizarre identities to con families and international authorities to commit crimes such as stealing children and property.

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