A WOMAN long believed to be the oldest ever may really have been her 99-year-old daughter out to fool the world.
Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment made global headlines when she apparently died in 1997 aged an incredible 122 years and 164 days.
However one Russian academic says the woman who was buried was actually her daughter Yvonne who secretly took on her mum’s identity when she died in 1934.
When Jeanne was born in 1875, in Arles, Provence, the average life expectancy for a woman was just 48.
So by the time she died more than 120 years later she was revered in her homeland for her unrivalled longevity.
And she clearly revelled in her late-life fame making a film aged 120 and a rap CD a year later.
“I waited 110 years to be famous. I mean to make the most of it,” she once said.
However, not everyone was convinced by the amazing story and one sceptic decided to do some digging into the family’s secret history.
Mathematician Nikolay Zak claims he then uncovered a host of inconsistencies.
Using a database of centenarians, he also calculated that the probability of someone reaching the age of 122 was “infinitesimally small.”
As Zak explained the numbers were telling him that Jeanne just couldn’t have lived that long.
He also found it strange that she didn’t mention the cholera epidemic that ravaged Arles in 1884 in her many interviews.
And Zak also questioned why on moving out of her apartment she had enlisted a relative to burn all her personal effects.
When Zak went public with his theory he outraged the whole of France.
Zak alleged Jeanne’s daughter had assumed her identity as they looked similar and she kept up the pretence for more than 60 years.
He then claimed that reports Yvonne had died of pleurisy in the 1930s were part of the complicated cover story.
There were even calls to exhume Jeanne’s body amid claims the switch was part of a bid to dodge an inheritance tax bill.
However, many dismissed Zak’s theory as Russian-sponsored “fake news”, as the newspaper Le Parisien put it.
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French officials also rubbished the claim and one said: “We never found anything to suggest a slightest doubt on her age.”
And they point to the fact when she turned 120 she was asked questions about people and places from her early life and passed with flying colours.
And Zak’s claims are pretty far fetched as for them to be true Yvonne would have had to pretend to be her own father’s wife.