Two Los Angeles residents have solved the mystery of Croatia’s Jane Doe—identifying the woman who was found wrapped in a sheet on a rocky island who spoke perfect English but did not know her own name.
Nina Smidt told The Daily Beast that the scratched-up woman pictured in photos that flashed around the globe this week was Daniela Adamcova, who had worked as an artisan at a company where she was a manager in 2015. She had been placed there by a non-profit that helps the homeless, Smidt said. Croatian police confirmed her identity and age as 57 on Wednesday.
The company was operating out of a warehouse known as Second Space in downtown Los Angeles, and landlord Tyler Madsen allowed the woman to live there rent-free so she could save up money to move to Ireland and get off Skid Row.
Years earlier, she had been profiled by a newspaper in her native Slovakia, which described her as a successful jewelry designer whose pieces were worn by stars including Brigitte Bardot and Diana Ross.
“I recognized the woman in the photo immediately,” Smidt told The Daily Beast on Tuesday evening. “The second I saw her picture, I sent it to Tyler to confirm that it was her, which he confirmed.”
Madsen told The Daily Beast he is certain the woman was his former tenant, whom he had not seen since she left for Ireland in July 2015.
“One hundred percent—there is no doubt in my mind it’s her,” he said.
But Adamcova had been to the U.S. long before she met Smidt. In 2008, a local Slovakian news outlet called My Trencin, named after the town where she was born, ran a flattering profile of her titled, “Brigitte Bardot Wore My Jewelry.” The story says she left what is now Slovakia in 1984 (after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Slovakia became independent from Czechoslovakia) to pursue a career in jewelry design in America when she was 19, which would make her 56, just slightly younger than Croatian authorities estimated. She told the outlet she wanted to go to America, which she called the “land of unlimited possibilities.”
She took on housekeeping and childcare jobs and eventually started working for a real estate agency, she told the outlet. “I decided to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Trade in Santa Monica in the field of Fashion Design and Art Painting, specializing in handmade jewelry,” she said. “Then I got a job at a jewelry store, where my interest in jewelry began.” There she says expensive jewelry made by well known designers was sold and she was inspired to start making her own designs.
“Gradually, as I began to gain more practice, I bought real pearls and better quality material than gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones,” she said, adding that at the time she was dating a film producer who was in touch with people in the film industry.
“Through him, I got into film studios and lent jewelry to make movies and series,” she said. “A necklace of small stones in the shape of flowers appeared on the neck of the actress in the series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She also actually owns the jewelry.” She said she also sold jewelry to several Friends cast members, Diana Ross, Brigitte Bardot, Barbara Streisand and the cast of Melrose Place. “I initially saw jewelry as a hobby,” she told her hometown paper, adding that she made her living off the jewelry and sent exhibitions to Japan, New York and Hong Kong. She said she used pearls from Thailand, Japan and Hawaii in most of her designs.
In the article, she says she returned to Slovakia in 2000. “The impulse to return was mainly the desire for a family,” she said. But in the 2008 interview, she said she was dreaming of a return to the U.S. after becoming disheartened by the situation in Slovakia. It is unclear when she returned to the U.S.
Smidt said when she saw the photo on Monday, she called police in Croatia, who then contacted the embassy in Slovakia, where the woman is from and has family. She said that on Tuesday, police reported back to her that the embassy confirmed the woman’s identity with relatives. Adamcova was first named by The Times of London.
“[She] had run into hard times and bad luck. But she was a really good worker, smart, and she has a wonderful heart,” Smidt said.
“Tyler and I are concerned about her well-being and are hopeful that now that her identity has been confirmed by the embassy, her family will be able to help find out what happened to her.”
Madsen, the owner of the warehouse where Adamcova was living and working in, added: “Our interactions were always good. She was a hard worker and was always trying to save up money. I think it was Ireland she was trying to go to and she had friends over there and was really determined to save up and get to her people.”
Tourists from the Czech Republic told a local media outlet that they met the woman on Sept. 9 in Drvenik, Makarska, on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. They said she was from Slovakia, though they did not remember exactly where. She told the tourists that she had traveled by train from Slovakia and planned to return home after traveling around Croatia.
“She told us about how she travels and that she is retired and her friends are still working,” the tourists said according to TN.CZ. “She went on the trip alone. And because she feared a 14-day quarantine after arriving back in Slovakia, she turned off her phone and discarded her SIM card. We talked about vaccinations, that the lady did not want one and was afraid that she would have to quarantine when she returned, which she also did not want.”
Adamcova was spotted in Krk, Croatia, on Sept. 12 by a married couple who were fishing. The couple called for help, and a rescue team had to use off-road vehicles and hike more than two miles to get to the woman. Police later found a backpack about 500 yards from where she was located, which contained personal hygiene items but no identity papers. The wallet inside was also empty—no money or credit cards—but they said it looked like a woman’s bag. Police would not confirm if they were investigating the incident as a robbery.
A Croatian police official told The Daily Beast that earlier this week they suspected the woman could be Eastern European based on the clothing she was wearing, but she spoke English with a “Queen’s English” accent. Police say she was very confused but the Czech couple said when they met her, she was not. “She was very intelligent, she told us that she spent some time in England, so she spoke good English,” they said, adding that she spoke Slovak to them and that she did not have scratches on her face. “ She was just bitten by mosquitoes, she complained a lot about them and said that if she knew about them, she would not have traveled to Croatia.”
While the question of the woman’s identity may have been answered, officials still do not know why or how she ended up in Krk—or how she survived in an area teeming with animal predators. There is also no clear answer why no one had reported her missing or was searching for her. Her name does not appear on any international missing person’s lists.
She was severely dehydrated and emaciated and had bloody scabs from deep scratches on her face, but she did not have cuts on her feet as would be expected on someone who came to the island over the rocky shoreline. Croatian police say she will be released to Croatian social services when she is released from the hospital.