Top cop reveals how he cracked the famous ‘GPO girl’ scam artist case
Woman had 70 aliases and left a trail of misery due to the lies she told authorities
A TOP garda who helped thwart a scam artist who cost the State an estimated €350,000 in wasted police and medical resources has opened up about the ploy he used to solve the infamous ‘GPO girl’ case.
Australian Samantha Azzopardi (24) was holed up in Temple Street children’s hospital in Dublin for a whole month nearly 10 years ago after pretending she was a stranded 14-year-old.
The con woman was found in a vulnerable and upset state and unable to speak in Dublin city centre, and Gardaí initially believed she may have been the child victim of sex trafficking.
Superintendent David Gallagher recalls on the Paramount TV series Con Girl, how on October 10, 2013, two gardaí came across the young woman in Dublin’s O’Connell Street.
“[She]presented in a distressed state, crying and looked a little bit bewildered, as if she was lost or if she was confused.
“She didn’t speak...she indicated she was 14 years of age, numerically with her fingers, but wouldn’t provide any details of herself or why she was upset, what adults were with her or why she was there.
“Fearing for the wellbeing of the child, they decided to invoke the Childcare Act and take her into protective custody until we established who she was and what her situation was.”
Supt Gallagher, then a Detective Sergeant, became the lead investigator into the case.
“She was brought to Temple Street children’s hospital, she was uncooperative there with the medical people there with regards to examinations.
They spent several days trying to find out who she was.
“We managed to obtain a partial set of fingerprints from a plate that she held and circulated them internationally.”
They were then forced to use a last resort method when nothing else seemed to work.
“She wouldn’t agree to pose for [a photo]. I knew we needed [one] so we engaged in a sort of a ploy where we moved her from one room to another and I had one of my team there with a covert camera.
“In Ireland children are protected under the Childcare Act for release of their identification, so it’s not something that’s done lightly.”
Retired Supt Dave Taylor was back then head of the Garda Press Office.
“I have never seen such a response to such a media appeal. It was international media, obviously local media. The coverage was instant, it was vast, it was top of the news.”
Supt Gallagher remembers the media storm it created.
“We were starting to get some calls in from Australia, from police stations and police officers, all saying the same name
Retired Supt Taylor is scathing about Azzopardi.
“None of it was real, it was a complete scam,” he storms. “Her whole demeanour was an elaborate ruse. She was good.”
There were no criminal charges made against Azzopardi, despite her wasting Garda time and getting a free month-long stay in a hospital here, with costs of an estimated €350,000. She was sent back to Australia on a plane, again funded by the taxpayer.
The Irish angle is just one of several case studies in the ‘Con Girl’ series, with several victims who were hoodwinked by the woman, who has had over 70 aliases since she embarked on her career of deception as a 14-year-old girl from Brisbane.
In one incident in 2019, Azzopardi moved into a couple’s Melbourne their home to become their au pair under false credentials. She took their two children to a mental health unit claiming to be a 14-year old who had been abused by her uncle.
After this incident, she was charged with child stealing, theft and property deception, and received a two-year sentence.
During the trial, it was revealed she had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and pseudologia fantastica, which manifests itself in compulsive lying.
All episodes of Con Girl are available February 22 on Paramount+
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