The true story behind 'Con Girl', the bizarre case of the 35-year-old woman who went to school.

In October 2013, police officers came across a young girl near the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin's city centre. The girl seemed distressed. She was non-verbal but indicated with her fingers that she was 14 years old.

The girl was dishevelled and didn't have any identification on her. Or any money. Or even a bag. There was no indication of who she was, where she came from, or how she ended up in front of the GPO.

The officers took the girl to Temple Street Children's Hospital. Upon meeting the girl for the first time, the detectives noticed three things: she appeared to be around 14 to 19 years of age; she wore braces, and she was actively trying to conceal her identity from the officers by covering her face with her hair.

She seemed in good enough health, albeit a little thing for her age, emaciated. 

But in terms of communication – there was none. They weren't even sure if she could speak or understand English.

Sharon Davis is the co-producer and presenter of Finding Samantha, a podcast that delves into this very peculiar case, which is also the subject of the documentary, Con Girl. Speaking to Mia Freedman on No Filter, Davis said that while the girl was at the Children's Hospital, she began to draw stick figures.

"At one point she drew a gun and a plane. They were all drawings that concerned authorities, who believed she was trying to say she had been sex trafficked. They were also concerned as to why she wasn't speaking - whether she was so traumatised she couldn't talk at all, or whether this was a language issue," Davis explains. 


"It was a real conundrum."

Watch: There are 40 aliases of Samantha Azzopardi, making her an international con artist. Post continues after video.

Video via A Current Affair.

A series of psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and child welfare workers were brought in to try and figure out who this young woman was.

A task force was also set up called Operation Shepherd. Fifteen detectives were assigned to the case, and they trawled through the city's CCTV footage looking for leads. They interviewed people on the street, checked accommodation providers, and looked at aeroplane logs, hoping to identify the girl and where she came from. 

UK media got wind of the story and soon the 'GPO Girl' was leading every news bulletin. People all around Ireland became invested in her story and prayed for a happy ending.

With no real leads, the police went to the High Court to get permission to release a grainy photo taken of the girl without her consent. Permission was granted and soon the photo was on the front page of every newspaper and on TV screens across the globe. 


"That was a huge decision," Davis tells No Filter. "They believed she was a minor, so that's why the court had to be involved. They did circulate it first among police and through Interpol, but they had no luck."

As for the photo itself, it showed the girl side-on. Her hair was scraped into a messy bun and she was nervously chewing on her finger. The leads began rolling in. 

But it was when the Southern Hemisphere woke up that everything changed. 

A photo supplied by the National Police Service of Ireland who were investigating Samantha for crimes in their country. Image: AAP.


"Detectives got a lead from police in Western Australia, who said they thought they knew who the girl was. They then received a lead in Ireland too, a man saying he had been the girl's stepfather for a while. He said he had been in a relationship with the girl's mother in Australia, but once they separated, he returned to Ireland," says Davis.

It was a combination of both leads that lead detectives to uncover the young woman's identity. 

The 'GPO Girl' wasn't an endangered teenager after all. She was a 25-year-old Australian woman named Samantha Azzopardi from Sydney's outer suburbs. She had been staying with an extended family in Ireland before coming across the police's radar in front of the GPO. 

Azzopardi was subsequently sent back to Australia on a flight paid for by Irish taxpayers. Operation Shepherd ended up costing 2000 hours of police time and around $250,000.

However - that incident in Dublin is just the tip of the iceberg in Azzopardi's long history of conning innocent strangers.

Azzopardi, now 35, first came to the attention of the Australian authorities in 2007 in Rockhampton, Queensland, when she claimed to be the American actress Dakota Johnson. She was then 19 years old. In 2010, she attempted to enrol in two schools in Brisbane, posing as a student.


"She turns up at the school and wants to enroll. Welfare authorities become involved, and social workers contact the police. An investigation begins and it's found that she's not who she says she is," recounts Davis.

"She's charged with falsely representing herself, with intention to defraud."

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, in September 2014 when she was 26, Azzopardi walked into a health centre in Calgary, Canada, and claimed she had been the victim of an abduction and sexual assault. She said she was 14 years old and her name was Aurora Hepburn. An estimated US$150,000 was spent trying to solve her 'case'.

In 2016, Azzopardi enrolled in the Good Shepherd School in Marrickville in Sydney's inner west. She claimed to be a 13-year-old named Harper Hart. 

"At the time, she had been 'found' by a couple in the street in Auburn [in Sydney's western suburbs] and they had taken her in and decided she needed their help. They thought she was a young girl," Davis says.

"Samantha told them she was on a US witness protection program and that she was hiding from a situation where she'd been sexually abused. And they believed her. So they helped put her into this school in Marrickville, which is for disadvantaged kids who have educational issues."

Months later, Azzopardi was still attending this school - but the school felt something wasn't right. 


They requested her birth and medical certificates as needed for school records, and when she wasn't forthcoming, she disappeared. She would have been around the age of 27.

For many people, the thought of trying to get back into a school routine sounds rather torturous. But for Azzopardi, she felt very differently. 

Reflecting on this, Davis notes that it's believed Azzopardi had interrupted schooling as a child, and dealt with learning difficulties. 

"I think at that time in her life, she was very vulnerable, and I think she was also having some mental health issues. While posing as a child in these school environments later in life, she did befriend other kids. We've had some correspondence with parents of those kids who are very angry to find she was in fact an adult and a fake. She got a lot of extra attention and help at school from teachers, and maybe that's what she craved."

"There's a lot of traumatised people in the story. And that includes Samantha."

Listen: Samantha Azzopardi Spent Her Adult Life Pretending To Be A Child. Post continues after audio...

In October 2018, claiming to be an 18-year-old called Sakah, Azzopardi moved into a German couple's home in Melbourne and became an au pair to their two children.

"She got the job by answering ads for au pairs. She gave herself a great backstory - said she comes from rich parents who are lawyers and travel a lot. She even supplied photos of her on yachts and those sorts of things. She was pretty good at manipulating her social media - often the photos wouldn't have her whole face in the picture," Davis tells No Filter.


As for why in this con Azzopardi moved away from pretending to be a victim of abuse and instead a woman of privilege, Davis says it likely comes down to one key factor.

"By this stage her fingerprints were on file and maybe she thought it was a bit harder to pretend she was 13 or 14."

For over six months, Azzopardi was with this family in Melbourne as an au pair. At the same time, she had separate scams going on in the background.

"She had put up a couple of ads online acting as a talent scout, saying she was looking for young girls to appear in animations. A couple of young girls answered those ads," says Davis. 

"She would meet with these girls, get them to perform very bizarre tasks under the guise of auditions. One task for example was she would tell the girl to go to a Centrelink office and say they had been victims of sex trafficking. She would paint bruises on their faces. Both of these girls, I have to say, are now deeply traumatised."

It's as though Azzopardi got a sense of pleasure or power out of tricking people - and receiving their attention. In the end, Azzopardi's au pair scam had a large impact on several people.


After the original family she was child caring for dropped her, she answered another advertisement and began a new role as an au pair for a French family who had recently arrived in Australia with their two young kids.

"I believe one of the kids was three, the other was one. She's there for a couple of weeks, and everything seems to be going okay. She asks the mum if she can take the kids on a picnic. The mum says it's fine, assuming the picnic will be at the park down the road," says Davis.

Instead, Azzopardi took the two children to Bendigo - around a two-hour drive from Melbourne where the family was living.

Samantha Azzopardi. Image: Facebook. 


She then walked into a mental health unit in Bendigo, with the kids each in hand. She claimed she was a teenager and that the two kids she was with were a result of being sexually abused by a relative. Azzopardi had also bought a girl's school uniform in advance and wore it to the unit, further trying to convince people she was a young student.

"The woman behind the counter happens to recognise Samantha's face from previous press, and calls the police. And she's arrested."

Azzopardi was charged with child stealing, theft, and property deception, which she pleaded guilty to in May 2021, and received a two-year sentence.

During the trial it was revealed that Azzopardi had undergone multiple assessments and had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and pseudologia fantastica - a rare disorder which manifests in compulsive lying. 

For the French family whose two children were forced into this ordeal by Azzopardi, they continue to be traumatised from what they've endured.

"Now those parents are totally traumatised as you would be. That mother no longer trusts anyone to mind her children. That has had a huge financial aside, aside from the psychological impact. She doesn't want to work anymore because she doesn't know who to trust," Davis notes.


Ultimately, when some hear about the scams Azzopardi has committed, they might feel as though these are 'victimless crimes' - no one was physically harmed, nor have large amounts of money been stolen. 

But as Davis has demonstrated in Finding Samantha, that is far from the case.

"It's all really playing with people's trust and emotions. These are crimes that play with your head - make you wonder who you can trust, who you can let into your life."

Since these scams, Azzopardi has continued to re-offend.

She never speaks in court. She is always represented by a lawyer. And she always pleads guilty, says Davis. While reporting on this whole story, Davis says she believes Azzopardi herself reached out to her, pretending to be someone else.

"I started to get these very strange messages online from this young woman, and you hear them in the podcast. They're really strange. And so I went deeper into that profile, and realised that it was a fake profile. In fact, the person I was probably talking to was the real Samantha. Not long after that, she arranged to meet me, but of course she never turned up for the meeting." 

Davis says she has spoken via Facebook message with Azzopardi, saying Azzopardi comes across as "very vulnerable". 

So what makes Azzopardi so compelling? What gets her to commit these cons so well? It's a question Davis says we should look into more.


"Victims who have been drawn into her world have spoken about how she was really charismatic. She does her research. She works out people's vulnerabilities and areas of connection."

According to Davis, Azzopardi has been "very quiet" for a few months now. She hopes Azzopardi is getting the psychological counselling she needs. 

"There's been times where I have been completely immersed in it to the point where I felt really sad about her and really sorry for her. There's been other times where I have felt very annoyed and, and a lot of empathy for the victims. There have been times where I've really struggled with making a story about someone who so clearly has mental health issues, about the ethics around that," says Davis.

"There's real life stuff and behind true crime stories."

Con Girl – part 1 airs Sunday, September 17, at 8.45pm on Channel 7 and 7plus.

You can also listen to the podcast Finding Samantha now. 

This story was originally published in August 2023, and has since been updated with new information.

Feature Image: Facebook.

Calling all Shopaholics, Retail Therapy Enthusiast & Glamour Gurus ! Take this short survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!