Thursday 19 April 2018

GPO girl probe took 2,000 garda hours and €350k

Superintendent David Taylor of the Garda Press Office and Orla Ryan, Guardian Ad Litem of the girl with a Garda hand out picture of the Australian woman
Superintendent David Taylor of the Garda Press Office and Orla Ryan, Guardian Ad Litem of the girl with a Garda hand out picture of the Australian woman

By Ken Foy and Shane Phelan

THE efforts to identify the woman at the centre of the 'GPO girl' case have cost €350,000.

Samantha Azzopardi may now be deported to Australia after it emerged that she defrauded authorities there.

Gardai were last night considering whether or not to charge the 25-year-old with wasting police time or to send her home.

"She led gardai on a merry dance and investigations have established that she has previous form for this kind of thing," said a source.

Azzopardi has a number of criminal convictions, including one for benefit fraud in October 2012 for which she was given a six-month suspended sentence.

It is believed the case involved around 2,000 garda man hours.

The High Court was told yesterday that Miss Azzopardi remains extremely vulnerable.

She remains in HSE care after the court heard that releasing her could "put her life at risk".

This is believed to have been her first visit to Ireland. She had spent around two months staying with her mother's former partner in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Joe Brennan issued a brief statement through a solicitor last night in which he confirmed recognising Ms Azzopardi from a photo released by gardai.

Distressed

“Our client was in a position to assist An Garda Síochána. As the matter is now being dealt with by An Garda Síochána and other State authorities our client wishes to advise that he will not be making any further comment,” the statement said.

The young woman was found in a distressed state outside the GPO on Dublin's O'Connell Street on October 10.

Gardai are now satisfied that while she may have had a traumatic life, nothing "bad" happened to her in Ireland.

Last night she remained at a centre for juveniles but new arrangements are expected to be sorted out today in the High Court because of the discovery that she is 25 years old, rather than 14.

Lawyers for the HSE, gardai, and her legally appointed guardian, asked the High Court to leave care orders in place pending psychiatric assessment.

Mr Justice George Birmingham was informed that she may be suffering from a psychiatric condition.

The request was made after both a consultant psychiatrist involved in the woman's treatment and a Garda Detective investigating her case agreed she was "a highly vulnerable individual".

Felix McEnroy SC for the woman's court-appointed guardian said while it is accepted she was not a minor, "a temporary vacuum" should not be created allowing the woman to leave where she is currently in care.

"If such a door was opened" counsel said it could "put her life at risk".

Mr Justice Birmingham said he was prepared to discharge the care orders but in the woman's interests, he was placing a stay on the discharge until today when the matter will come back before the court.

The judge was satisfied to discharge an order, granted earlier this week, which would have allowed doctors force feed the woman. Doctors treating her became concerned because she was not eating. However the court heard they did not need to force feed her after she started eating and drinking.

Drawings

Earlier in his evidence to the court Detective Sergeant David Gallagher, who was involved in the investigation to determine her identity, said she had been identified and her age had been established as a result of the Garda appeal.

Consultant Child Psychiatrist Dr Brian Houlihan said that the young woman had displayed signs of someone with a difficult past. It was important for those treating her to have sight of her medical history, he added.

He told the court the woman did not speak while he was conducting an assessment of her. She had communicated by drawing pictures.

He also told the court that while he was in her presence she had her "fingernails painted" which she seemed to really enjoy.

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