In 1984, 24-year-old Petra Pazsitka was living in Braunschweig, Germany, studying computer science—until the day she was reported as missing after failing to return from the dentist. At one point, the main suspect in an unrelated rape and murder confessed to killing her, but later recanted.

Her body was never found, and in 1989, she was declared dead.

The mystery of Pazsitka took a bizarre turn last week, when police had trouble ascertaining the identity of a 55-year-old Dusseldorf woman who’d reported a burglary in her home. Eventually, she confessed who she was, revealing her 31-year-old student ID as proof.

As the Telegraph reports:

Ms Pazsitka said she spent the last 11 years in Dusseldorf, previously living in several other cities in west Germany, according to police.

It also emerged that the woman had been living for 31 years without a social security card, a drivers’ licence, a passport or a bank account, leaving authorities stumped.

Police have said that Ms Pazsitka “cannot be made criminally liable” for her disappearance because she never used false papers as she hadn’t needed to show her official documents to anyone.

Ms Pazsitka has remained silent on the reason for her disappearance, but she has expressly said that she wants “no contact with the public or with her family living today in the region of Gifhorn”.

Braunschweig’s high commissioner Holger Kunkel told German newspaper the Braunschweiger Zeitung: “We asked her if there was violence or sexual assault in the family, but she has clearly ruled that out.”

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Apparently, she’d planned her disappearance for some time prior, secretly saving up money and even renting an apartment under a false name as preparation. Once she was on her own, she was careful to pay for everything in cash earned through what is vaguely described in various sources by “illicit means;” she had no social security card or driver’s license.

The biggest puzzle is, of course, not how she stayed underground for 31 years, but why. From what Braunschweig police spokesman Joachim Grande told NBC News, it seems that her family had everything and nothing to do with it:

According to Grande, Pazsitka would not elaborate on why she was living under a false name or why she disappeared in the first place, saying only that the woman had said family issues were not behind her disappearance.

“Her father passed away a few years ago, but her brother and mother were in shock and tears when they heard the news,” the police spokesman said.

However, Grande said Pazsitka has stated she does not want contact with her family or the public. Pazsitka’s family has asked police to deliver a letter to her in hopes of one day reuniting, he added.

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The Inquisitr wonders if Pazsitka—who disappeared from what was then West Germany—might have taken some clandestine, Cold War-era job that would have made use of her computing skills, though there’s no evidence (yet) to support this theory. Was she a spy? A secret agent? Simply a woman who wanted to live on her own terms?

Whatever the case, cops say she won’t be charged with a crime, but she’s been officially declared alive, and must register with the government after spending so many years remaining deliberately invisible.

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Image of Dusseldorf by Assumulator via Wikimedia Commons