Croatian police have released a picture of a woman who they say speaks “perfect English” but is unable to tell them who she is or how she came to be found on a jagged outcrop of rock off the island of Krk.
The news website 24Sata said the woman, who appears to be in her 60s and has cuts and bruises to her face and body, was first spotted by a fisher at 10am on Sunday sitting on a rock in a bay near the village of Soline, in the north of the island.
Worried that his boat might run aground if he tried to rescue her himself, the fisher alerted police, who dispatched an emergency rescue team in two 4x4s. They had to abandon their vehicles and walk more than 3km to get to her.
Local officials told the website that the woman, who is 5ft 4in with shoulder-length brown hair and was wearing a pink sun hat, striped top and dark trousers, had no documents or phone that might have allowed her to be identified.
She appeared to have spent several nights outside in the area, which is visited by bears and wild boar, officials said, and she was so weak that she was unable to drink water unaided. She is being treated in hospital in Rijeka on the Croatian mainland.
One local resident told the website: “It’s very strange she was in the area at all. It is an extremely inaccessible part of the bay, with terribly sharp rocks, literally like razors that will cut the rubber on the soles of your shoes.”
The resident said there was “no life or animals” in the area “except maybe wild boars or bears, which know how to swim here in search of food”. They said this was rare, however, “because there is no food, nothing”.
A normal person “certainly could not swim that distance, it needs exceptional strength,” the resident said.
One Soline resident said the woman had not been staying in the village because she would have been recognised, while another suggested she may have “got lost while out walking, fallen, hurt herself and lost her memory through a blow to the head”.
The website said police were going through the missing persons register and touring hotels, apartment complexes, campsites and other holiday facilities in the vicinity with the woman’s photograph in the hope that someone would recognise her.
Krk, a popular tourist destination particularly with holidaymakers from southern Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary, is one of the largest islands in the Adriatic, with a permanent population of nearly 20,000 people.
Despite being connected to the mainland by a bridge, large parts of the island away from its main towns and villages remain remote and sparsely populated, with areas of inhospitable terrain.
24Sata said the case resembled that of Andreas Grassl, widely known as Piano Man, a Bavarian who in 2005 was found on a beach in Kent and spent five months in hospital being treated for a psychological breakdown that had caused him to lose his memory.