Astonishing claims have emerged from authoritarian Uzbekistan today that the glamorous daughter of former dictator Islam Karimov has died from 'poisoning'.
The sensational reports about ex-billionaire Gulnara Karimova - who has been locked away out of sight since her father purged her in 2013 - cannot be immediately verified.
The 44-year-old was reported several months ago to have been shut away in a psychiatric hospital, while other accounts say she was held under house arrest, and one report suggested she was living in exile in Israel.
Gulnara Karimova (pictured) married an American businessman, Mansur Maqsudi, who ran a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Tashkent. She had two children with him, one of whom was named Islam, after her father
She was prevented from attending her autocrat father's funeral in Samarkand in September and her friends have been increasingly concerned about her fate.
The extraordinary claim comes amid a presidential campaign and the rumours could be seen as a dirty trick to embarrass the authorities.
A Central Asian news website claimed an anonymous source in Uzbek National Security Service SNB had told them Gulnara died in the capital, Tashkent, on 5 November.
Her father Islam Karimov (pictured, right with Putin in 1999) ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist from independence in 1991 until his death earlier this year
'According to the source, he personally took part in the funeral, and decided to have a phone chat with us because of a fear for her children's destiny,' stated the report.
It adds: 'He claims her son Islam and daughter Iman are left in Tashkent in a helpless position.'
Islam, 24, was previously believed to be living in exile in London.
News of Karimova's death was reported on the centre1.com website (pictured) and the site's editor, Galima Bukharbayeva, said: 'I would love it not to be true because of how horrendous this is'
There has been no comment from the Uzbek authorities on the claims which suggest that she was buried in a graveyard in Tashkent 'on the night of her poisoning', and the grave was later 'bulldozed'.
A source at the offices of acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev - who is the favourite to succeed Karimov as president in elections on 4 December - reportedly declined to answer questions of the ex-leader's daughter.
'The person who spoke to us said that it is absolutely unlikely that there will ever be a statement about Gulnara from state officials,' reported the opposition news website.
Karimova (pictured, left) with former US President Bill Clinton at an AIDS charity fundraising dinner in Antibes, France in 2009
Galima Bukharbayeva, the website editor, who lives in exile - said: 'I personally spoke to the source. We got the information about a week ago and all this time we tried to cross check and verify it. I would love it not to be true because of how horrendous this is.'
She said: 'Our source said that her son Islam was fooled into believing that her mother felt really bad and came back to Tashkent (from London).
'So apparently he is there now together with his sister, and one can only guess what can happen to them.'
'Our source said that worry over her helpless children was his primary reason to call us. I don't know if the source tried to get in touch with other media.'
Gulnara Karimova (pictured, centre) was described by cables published by Wikileaks as 'the single most hated person' in Uzbekistan before her sudden fall from grace
Social sites have called on the highly secretive Uzbek authorities to prove that Gulnara is alive under the hashtag Show Gulnara.
The report into Gulnara's death appears at odds with information from a human rights activist now based in the EU who said contacts had sighted Gulnara 'dressed in black' and walking alone in Tashkent.
'From what our source tells us, Gulnara is alive and I am most surprised about Centre One spreading rumours,' said the activist.
Harvard-educated Gulnara - a judo black belt who at the height of her nepotistic power was the wealthiest woman oligarch in the