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Identity theft captures Czechs' imagination

The bizarre case of a 33-year old Czech woman who fooled authorities across Europe by taking on the identities of 13-year-old boys and girls has gripped her homeland. Read more ...

world Updated: Jan 12, 2008 13:15 IST
Sophie Pons
Sophie Pons

The bizarre case of a 33-year old Czech woman who fooled authorities across Europe by taking on the identities of 13-year-old boys and girls has gripped her homeland.

Victim or guilty party, astounding actress or mentality disturbed woman, prison psychiatrists were trying and get some answers from baby-faced Barbora Skrlova after she was detained on identity theft charges following her repartriation from Norway on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Czech media continued its blanket coverage of the bizarre eight month case of identity theft with one broadcaster accompanying its reports with the theme music from the cult television series "The X files."

Religious motives, porno-business, upbringing or "the unexplainable motives of a manipulator" have been advanced by police as reasons, the daily Dnes said Friday, adding that "all of these or none of them could apply."

In her latest incarnation, Barbora lived in Oslo, having shaved her head and bandaged her breasts to take on the guise of a 13-year-old Czech boy, Adam Farhner.

The disguise duped teachers at an Oslo school and the personnel of a social home for four months before Norvegian police uncovered the fraud on January 5 and sent her home, according to Czech media.

A few months earlier, under the guise of 13-year-old "Anna," Barbora led Czech authorities on a wild goose chase before being traced to Copenhagen in June.

"The special needs of Barbora Skrlova to present herself under a false child's identity must be rooted in her own childhood," the daily Pravo speculated.

Psychologists and psychiatrists "face a not very easy task" of determining whether and to what degree she is psychically ill and "in the last instance the reason," Lidove Noviny added.

Her incredible case began in May 2007 when an eight-year-old boy, Ondrej, was found imprisoned in a box room in a nondescript house in the eastern Czech town of Kurim.

Ondrej's mother and his aunt, who are both suspected of belonging to a breakaway sect of the Grail Foundation which demands total submission proved through physical trials, were charged with child abuse with Barbora as one of the key witnesses.

The sect, which used the cover of a scout group baptised "The Ants," was apparently led by Barbora's father with her apparently slated to become the group's "goddess."

Different members of the sect, many linked to the world of theatre, helped with the creation of the false identities. An actor used his daughter at one stage to take on the character of "Anna" to fool Czech social services, then a playwright lent his son's identity for the most recent Norwegian episode.

While the real Adam Fahrner lived "in total security" in the Czech Republic, Barbora was living as Adam's false double in Oslo with his father, according to information obtained from Norwegain police by AFP.

"He did not talk to the other children ... everyone though he had a cancer," a teacher at the Oslo school attended by the false Adam told Czech television channel Nova.

The false Adam's sick pallour, added to the frequent demands to be excused from gym lessons, started to raise suspicions of abuse. The "father" Fahrner was detained and the false Adam placed in a home, from which he/she disappeared in mid-December following a strange call placed to a Czech helpline.

Norwegian police found the false Adam after launching a manhunt and a public appeal for information with a photo.

"It finally turned out that it was not the missing teenage boy but rather a 33-year-old woman who was using his identity," Olso police said in a laconic statement released on Thursday.

Police said they did not know what the motives of the parents of the real Adam were for helping in the identity fraud by presenting the false Adam to Norwegian authorities as their son.

Czech authorities are still trying to understand why Barbora first took on the identity of "Anna," a young girl apparently abandoned by a couple of drug addicts.

The testimony of Ondrej and his 11-year-old brother, Jakub, give the impression that Barbora was abused at the Kurim house as well.

"I never had any problems with my two lives, that of "Anna" and of "Barbora," the woman at the centre of so many questions and speculation admitted after she resurfaced temporarily in the Danish capital in the summer.

One thing does appear certain for the moment, DNA tests have confirmed that the identity of the person repatriated as "Adam" from Norway on Wednesday really is Barbora Skrlova.