A British millionaire "princess" has been found sleeping on the streets of Milan, more than a year after she mysteriously vanished.
Ariane Lak, manager of a cinematography production company, was found in a "confused state" by an Albanian ex-policeman – now working as an investigator. He located her after walking the streets of Milan showing Lak's picture to locals.
Lak belongs to a rich family that migrated from Tehran to London. The 51-year-old entrepreneur is thought to be a descendant of the Qajar monarchy, who ruled modern-day Iran from 1785 to 1925. The woman, who studied at Cambridge and speaks at least four languages, frequently travelled to Milan, a city she said she was in love with, according to Italian media.
A Facebook page linked to her describes the woman as: "Born in December 1966, the Princess is a descendant of the Qajari Monarchy. With a Franco-Caucasian bloodline, she is, apart from the Aryan Princess also the Royal Highness of Caucasia and a Frank Princess to Europe.'
She was reported missing in 2016. The Lucie Blackman Trust, an organisation supporting British people in peril abroad, said last January: "50-year-old Ariane was staying at a hotel Residence Di Coro/Di Corso in Milan, Italy.
"A family member spoke to the hotel on 6 January 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 4ins tall, of slim build, with shoulder length brown hair."
Lak's family could not reach her on her phone and her bank account showed no signs of any transactions.
After a series of failed attempts to speak with Lak, her sister contacted Scotland Yard first, and later investigation society SKP Group.
Lak was found after a six-month-long search. She was sleeping on the floor in Piazza Cesare Beccaria, an area frequented by homeless people in Milan, Il Corriere della Sera reported.
The woman repeatedly said she "chose to live on the streets". Preliminary medical examinations have ruled out the possibility that Lak suffered blackouts.
The SPK Group investigator started looking for Lak among vagrants after some people who knew the woman told him they had spotted someone who looked like her, with hair tied in a plait and dressed like "a homeless person".
The investigator interviewed some 60 homeless people, offered them food and coffee as he gathered information on the missing entrepreneur.
Lak was found sleeping without any blanket and wearing short trousers. She did not have any money nor documents on her. She said she had chosen that spot because there was hot air coming out from the grating she slept on.
Lak was initially scared when the investigator found her. However, she felt calmer after he showed her text messages her sister had sent him.
Although Lak maintains she wanted to be homeless, she was not able to explain how she ended up on the streets.
"I cannot explain, maybe I was walking, maybe I was assaulted and robbed and I fell on the floor and I hit my head," she was quoted by local media as saying.
"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."
Lak is now with her sister in a hotel in Milan.
There is still much mystery around her disappearance. People who met her at the hospital after she was found told Il Corriere that the woman felt the urge to go back to the streets.