From Sao Paolo to Soho: missing Miss Brazil is found

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The Independent Online

Taiza Thomsen told reporters while representing Brazil at the Miss World contest in 2003 that she had no time for an institution that "flaunts women and their bodies".

It is a measure of the downward turn that her life took that she had to work in a London strip club to make ends meet during a baffling six-month silence which sparked an international police hunt.

That silence ended yesterday when Ms Thomsen, 24, who last contacted her family in September, called Brazilian police from her new home in north London to say she was safe and well but had no desire to see anyone - least of all her parents.

The disappearance of the former Miss Brazil after moving 6,000 miles to Britain in April last year from Brazil's largest city, Sao Paolo, gave rise to concern that she had fallen foul of sex traffickers.

Investigators said last night they were satisfied she had not been the subject of any pressure or coercion by another individual. Sources said Ms Thomsen had severed contact with her family after an argument.

In a statement, the Federal Police in her native town of Joinville, southern Brazil, said: "Thomsen reported she was doing well in London and that she did not want to be found, not even by her parents. She has the right to stay isolated."

But while it seems Ms Thomsen did not fall foul of kidnappers, the idealism she expressed as a beauty pageant queen with the world at her feet four years ago rapidly gave way to harsh economic realities when she arrived in London as an impoverished immigrant 10 months ago.

The Independent has been told that Ms Thomsen, who was studying for a journalism degree before she left Brazil, may also have gone to ground because her visa to stay in Britain has expired.

At the time when she cut links with her parents last September, Ms Thomsen was working at Sunset Strip, a sex club in London's Soho where she worked as a stripper for two months under the name "Sol" or Sun.

Tony Curran, the club's owner, said she had been a show dancer and never came in contact with clients. There is no suggestion Ms Thomsen was working against her will.

Mr Curran said: "She worked here for eight weeks last summer. There was no physical contact with customers in the work she used to do."

Another Brazilian girl working at the bar, who gave her name as Vania, said Ms Thomsen had taken on the work because she was short of money. Vania said: "She was such a happy and smiling person and she came her just to get some money. She wanted to study English."

Scotland Yard, which launched a search for Ms Thomsen last week after being contacted by Interpol, said it had ended its operation after being contacted by their Brazilian counterparts.

It is understood the former Miss Brazil was traced after a friend spotted a missing person poster in a north London hairdresser's last weekend. The poster was one of dozens pinned up at locations associated with London's burgeoning Brazilian population.

The friend, who called Ms Thomsen and persuaded her to contact the Brazilian authorities, said she was "well-dressed and in good health". Some of the more vivid explanations for her disappearance - that she had married a Polish man and been taken to Belgium by a violent boyfriend - were dismissed.

But others expressed their continuing concern about the well-being of former beauty queen.

Carlos Mellinger, president of the Brazilian Association of the United Kingdom (Abras), said: "We are relieved she has been in touch but we are worried she may have some psychological and legal issues. Her visa has expired and someone who abruptly cuts contact with parents to whom they are close may have a problem with depression. We want to offer her any further help she might want."

It was all supposed to have been very different for the black-haired aspiring journalist, who described her hobbies in the Miss World contest as tennis, swimming, samba and belly dancing.

She was unexpectedly handed the Miss Brazil title in 2002 after the incumbent lost her sash and crown when it was revealed that she was married.

The award led to the promise of further opportunities with travel to Panama and Nigeria in the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants.

It was while in Nigeria that Ms Thomsen said she was more concerned with working for charity than flaunting her body. She added: "My ambition is to become a journalist and television hostess. In my spare time, with my friends, we make baby clothes to raise funds for children's charities."

Her aspirations failed to come to fruition, and circumstances persuaded Ms Thomsen to tell friends last April that she was flying to London to pursue a modelling career.

After her parents, Antonio and Angela, failed to hear anything from her after a hurried phone call that September, they went on Brazilian television last month to plead for information. Mrs Thomsen said: "When I last spoke to her, she wouldn't answer any questions. I asked if she had been kidnapped and the line went dead."

Last night, it seemed that the worried couple were content to leave their daughter alone for the time being.

Mr Mellinger said: "I have spoken to Antonio and he said they would respect and support Taiza's decision to be by herself in London."