Suspected bogus 9/11 survivor from Barcelona
MADRID (AFP) - The sacked head of a 9/11 survivors network alleged to have invented her experience of the attacks on New York's World Trade Center is of Spanish origin, a newspaper reported Saturday, quoting acquaintances as saying she always sought to be the centre of attention.
The Catalonian daily La Vanguardia said Tania Head was better known in Barcelona as Alicia Esteve Head, publishing a photograph of her with colleagues taken when she worked as a management secretary in the city between 1998 and 2000.
Associates told the newspaper she often recounted unlikely stories which put herself at the centre of the action, notably one of a high-speed car crash in which she was badly hurt.
Tania Head was sacked from the prominent survivors' group on Wednesday, a day before the New York Times ran a front-page story that said "the pieces just didn't fit" in the repeated tale of her ordeal to escape from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Head rose to mini-celebrity status with her vivid description of crawling through smoke and flames on the 78th floor of the south tower, being saved by a volunteer firefighter, and losing her fiance in the attacks.
She was interviewed in the media, invited to university conferences and to contribute to publications.
Her successor as head of the World Trade Center Survivors' Network, Richard Zimbler, said, "There was no reason to doubt her story."
"She looked the part. She had a badly injured arm that appeared to have burn scars and her story was very, very realistic."
But La Vanguardia quoted a former colleage as saying that Esteve Head also had a scarred and deformed arm, which she blamed on a 200-kilometre (125-mile) an hour crash in a Ferrari with her fiance.
"She used to say ... she had lost her arm (but) it was recovered and sewn back on again," the unidentified source said.
La Vanguardia said Esteve Head came from a prominent Barcelona family that was involved in a financial scandal in 1992, and her father and brother had served prison terms.
Former associates said she spoke constantly of her family's wealth and social position, her brother's businesses, her fine clothes and her education in top universities in the United States.
"To us, it smacked more of invention than the truth," one said. "She lied very easily."
US psychologist Bella DePaulo said Tania Head "wanted what most liars want ... which is to change the way other people look at them, to be loved and respected and valued and cared about."
NY Correspondent, AVUI newspaper
Posted by: Al Siebert, Director, The Resiliency Center
Host of SurvivorGuidelines.org
October 1, 2007