‘Vanished’ millionaire homeless
A BRITISH millionaire "princess" has been found living rough on the streets of Italy almost two years after she mysteriously vanished.
Iranian-born Ariane Lak, 50, was last seen at a hotel in Milan in January last year. Her wealthy family hired a team of private investigators to find her after their desperate attempts to contact her failed.
This week, months of hard work paid off after Ms Lak was found sleeping on a grate heated by air rising from the city's underground railway in a central Milan piazza.
"It was raining hard, she was afraid and very agitated but responded to her name," one of the unnamed investigators told The Times.
"Police were called and she calmed down when she saw their uniforms and agreed to go to a police station," he said.
Ms Lak, who suffers from schizophrenia, enjoyed a privileged upbringing, attending Britain's exclusive Cheltenham Ladies College before going on to graduate from Cambridge University.
The case has made headlines in the Italian media, which has described Ms Lak as a "millionaire".
She was reportedly found in a "confused state" near the city's cathedral in the Piazza Cesare Beccaria at the weekend, according to reports.
One of the investigators, an unnamed former detective from Albania, spent weeks showing locals her photograph before locating a hairdresser who recognised her as a customer who often appeared "dirty".
When the ex-detective caught up with Ms Lak, he said she appeared to be in a "confused state" and suffering from memory loss. She told him she had been violently mugged and had been living off the kindness of strangers ever since.
"I cannot explain ... maybe I was walking, I was assaulted and robbed, and I fell to the ground I
hit my head," he quoted her as having told him.
"I'm in love with Milan. Residents, passers-by and volunteers offered help but I did not want to ... I refused.
"They gave me food and I was refusing ... I was rummaging in bins, trying to eat, I was standing in front of restaurants and hotels so I could eat something."
Ms Lak, who speaks four languages and once worked in the film production industry, has long claimed to be an Aryan princess directly descended from Iran's Qajari royal family.
According to a post on her community Facebook page, she moved to Milan from London in 2014.
Her family enlisted the Lucie Blackman Trust, which supports British nationals in crisis overseas, to publicise her disappearance in January last year, shortly after she vanished.
"Ariane was staying at a hotel Residence Di Coro/Di Corso in Milan, Italy," the Trust said in a post last year.
"A family member spoke to the hotel on 06/01/2016 and confirmed that the hotel was closing down and that Ariane had moved to a hotel nearby.
"Ariane has not been heard from since. Her family are very concerned for her welfare. She is around 5ft 4 ins tall, of slim build, with shoulder length brown hair."
In November last year, a mysterious, English speaking homeless woman found on the streets of Rome sparked a worldwide appeal to identify her.
Missing persons campaigners speculated she could be one of the abducted children on their database - and possibly even Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who vanished on holiday with her family in Portugal in 2007.
She was later identified as Embla Jauhojärvi's, a 21-year-old Swedish student with Aspergers who vanished from her family home six months earlier.
Her father recognised a photograph taken by a curious and concerned tourist and widely circulated on social media.