She appeared from nowhere on a rain-tossed morning, sitting naked on a Hong Kong shoreline, unable to speak.
Now she sits in a hospital bed, staring into space, mute and expressionless, her charts naming her simply as “Unknown”.
The mysterious appearance of the Western woman last week beside the runway of a disused harbourside airport has put Hong Kong authorities in a bind, the police chief handling the unusual case said on Wednesday.
“We’ve tried interpreters in many different languages and sign-language experts, but none of them appear to get through to her,” chief inspector Victor Ng said.
Her discovery comes just weeks after the identity was revealed of a mystery man who appeared wandering along a beach in England in April.
The tall, thin man, who refused to speak or respond to written communications in four months under hospital observation, became known as the “Piano Man” after he reportedly demonstrated a talent for the grand piano.
He was later revealed to be 20-year old German Andreas Grassl after he suddenly spoke for the first time last month. He reportedly admitted pulling the stunt for attention.
So far, interpreters have been called in to speak to Hong Kong’s mysterious woman in English, French and Portuguese as well as Indian and Pakistani languages.
The woman, believed to be aged between 35 and 45, and who is described as slightly built at 1,6m tall and with light brown shoulder-length hair, was discovered on Friday.
A government statement said she had been seen earlier wandering nearby streets, but Ng said police were still probing those reports.
“She was found near a golf course and if she had been wandering, someone on that golf course would have seen her. But no one has come forward yet,” he said, adding that police were considering the possibility she was an illegal immigrant brought in by boat.
Ng said that for five days now, medical experts and police have been trying to prise from her any indication of her identity. Instead, she just stares at the wall and wanders the ward in the hospital where she is under observation.
“She has not said a word. She has shown absolutely no emotion whatsoever,” added Ng.
Hong Kong police have appealed to law-enforcement agencies all over the world to see if the woman is on any nation’s list of missing persons.
Ng said she showed no sign of having been assaulted and there was no indication she was under the influence of drugs.
“I would describe her as mentally disturbed, not retarded, but mentally confused by something,” he said.
Hong Kong University professor of clinical psychology Sam Ho said it is common in such cases for the subject to have been the victim of a trauma that sent them into a trance-like state.
“It could be a split of consciousness. The part associated with the trauma is suppressed, giving the subject the appearance of disorientation,” Ho said. “This is different to schizophrenia because in this case the subject is not completely conscious of him or herself.”
Alternatively, Ho suggested, she could be suffering from severe psychiatric breakdown or the results of long-term drug abuse.
Ng said police were waiting on immigration officials to see if they could identify her.
He was also expecting medical and psychological tests before deciding what to do next.
“No crime has been committed, so there’s nothing to go on. We sent out the tracker dogs to see if they could find her clothes, but they turned up nothing.
“It really is a difficult one,” he said. — AFP