(photo @ Le Republican Lorrain)
In 2004, 80-year-old Madeleine Mores of Vittel, France decided to return to her home country and begin receiving her government pension. Having lived in Algeria since the 1960's, she returned to France to renew her ID card.
Imagine her shock and anger when she discovered that her $670-a-month pension and her identification had already been claimed. For the last 20 years, someone who allegedly had the same name as her and was currently living in Saint-Etinne, France had been drawing her pension.
Looking like a simple case of identity theft, Madeleine from Vittel (who we'll call "Madeleine 1") handled losing some of her retirement payouts much differently than the people in my ancestral home country of Greece: Instead of rioting and throwing yogurt everywhere, she went to the authorities.
Nothing screams "REVOLUTION" like the smell of tear gas and Chobani.
The wheels of justice turned slowly, but in 2006, police arranged a face to face confrontation with Madeleine 1's alleged identity thief (who we'll call "Madeleine 2"). But instead of running and/or trying to lie her way out of things, she firmly insisted that she, in fact, was the real Madeleine Mores.
Madeleine 2 was not only able to sound convincing, but also produced an identity card, passport, and pay slips with her identifying information as the real Madeleine. She was even able to produce a birth certificate that listed her name as 'Madeleine Paule Helene Mores' and being born on November 6, 1924...the same information that was found on the birth certificate for Madeleine 1. The two women also claimed to have been born in the same village, Meurthe-et-Moselle.
As police uncovered more information, however, things got even more confusing. Both Madeleines claimed to have the same mother and to have been given away to foster families during their early years. Madeleine 1 claimed that she was given up after their mother died giving birth to her younger brother in 1931, while Madeleine 2 claimed she was simply given up due to being unwanted (Madeleine 2 did not claim in siblings).
The real twist, however, was provided by a faded photograph (thankfully preserved by a Google cached version after the original was removed from the internet) of Madeleine 1 that was taken near of an Orleans orphanage during the 1940's. Sitting next to her in the photograph appears to be Madeleine 2. Despite both women agreeing that they are in the photograph, neither one remembers meeting the other until their recent encounter...or even having the picture taken.
With both women seemingly convinced that they were the real Madeleine, DNA tests were conducted that compared samples from each woman against a proven member of the Mores family line. The tests determined that Madeleine 1 was the real deal, but that still leaves us with the question of Madeleine 2's identity.
First of all, she had no reason to steal the identity of Madeleine 1; Madeleine 2 had a well documented work history, so that sweet government cheese that so many retirees in Europe look forward to would have surely been hers.
Madeleine 2 also had plenty of documentation over the years of her supposed identity as Madeleine Mores. If she was trying to steal another woman's identity with the same name, this was the longest con in history (not to mention a very low paying target).
This could all be explained as some sort of pre World War II bureaucratic cleric error, except for one thing: The photograph that they both identify as being in, but don't remember taking.
The case currently has no new leads or possible explanations. Madeleine 2 is currently living in limbo without an official identity...and a lot of unanswered questions.
And Madeleine 1 is left to contain her
overwhelming excitement over winning the battle to prove who she is.