'unacceptable risk' | 

‘GPO Girl’ faces new charges for allegedly posing as child sex trafficking victim

Samantha Azzopardi made headlines around the world when gardai released a photo of a mysterious young woman found in Dublin who was apparently unable to speak English

The 'GPO Girl' Samantha Azzopardi

Sunday World

Con-artist Samantha Azzopardi, who made headlines around the world as the ‘GPO Girl’ in 2013, is facing new charges for allegedly posing as a child sex trafficking victim.

The Australian first came to international attention nine years ago when gardai released a photo of a mysterious young woman found in Dublin who was apparently unable to speak English.

She claimed to be a teenage sex trafficking victim from Eastern Europe but was outed when gardaí secured High Court permission to release her photograph and a family member soon came forward to identify her.

She was deported but has since fallen foul of the law in Canada and later faced serious criminal charges in her native Australia.

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

Azzopardi allegedly told her story to homeless charity Sydney Jewish House, located in Sydney eastern suburbs, who contacted police on Monday.

Because Azzopardi claimed to only speak French a translator was offered at the police station but she offered only limited conversation.

Police said a day was wasted investigating her claims.

No plea was entered when the 34-year-old appeared at Waverley Local Court on Tuesday.

Police accepted Azzopardi, who has a small and slender build, was a minor because her face was partly obscured behind a mask.

In opposing bail police prosecutor Nicole McMahon said releasing Azzopardi, who appeared in court restrained by two officers, was an “unacceptable risk to the community”.

According to the Daily Telegraph, McMahon said the only time she's not offending “is when she's in custody”

Magistrate Paul Hudson said he believed Azzopardi suffered from schizophrenia and that affected her behaviour.

However he refused bail on the grounds that she may fail to appear at future proceedings, which resume on Thursday, or reoffend.

Magistrate Hudson referred to a long list of charges Azzopardi has previously faced in different locales around the world.

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

In May this year Azzopardi was ordered to serve a three-year community corrections order after telling Sydney police she was teenage cult member who had been sexually assaulted.

She claimed she was 16 and her parents sent her from Brisbane to a man who sexually assaulted her, took photos and held her captive.

In a bid to escape the man, she told a youth worker she slept in Sydney's Hyde Park but returned because of bad weather, according to the documents.

A police investigation started on November 22 after the youth worker reported it to the Child Protection Helpline.

But when Azzopardi – using the alias Eleanor Harris – was due to meet with police, she changed her mind and was dropped off at an address in Rushcutters Bay.

When police checked the address, the mysterious man did not live there and neither did the "teenager".

A week later, she went to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and told a doctor a similar tale of sexual abuse, claiming she was 16, adding she was injected with a fertility drug against her wishes.

The fraudster fled the hospital before she could be examined.

The woman was arrested in December after she again called a youth worker.

The magistrate said her crimes were serious, could drain resources and cost thousands in relation to investigations.

"These offences are founded in lies," he said.

"All people have the capacity to lie, it's quite common."

"This court has to determine whether the offender in this particular case was impacted by the condition she was living with or is she just a liar … who disrupts the community to a great extent," the magistrate said.

He accepted she was diagnosed with mental health issues, including a severe personality disorder, but noted she "has a capacity to commit serious offences" because of her criminal history.

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