Mysterious ‘Piano Man’ released from British hospital, returns home to Germany
LONDON – The mystery surrounding an institutionalized drifter known as the “Piano Man” for his musical performances in a British hospital has been solved, with the German government saying the 20-year-old is from Bavaria, officials said Monday.The man who loved to play the hospital chapel’s piano is from Bavaria, and he was flown home Saturday, the German government said. His name was not disclosed.He was found on a beach in southern England on April 7, the German Foreign Ministry said. The government declined to provide any other details about his life. A spokesman for the German Embassy in London said officials had provided the man with replacement travel documents.”It was someone who had lost his passport and needed to get back to Germany, and we helped him,” the spokesman said. “Under German law on the protection of personal data, I cannot tell you anything more about this man.”West Kent National Health Service and Social Care Trust, which has been caring for the man, said he had been discharged because his condition had improved. Spokesman Adrian Lowther would not comment further, citing patient confidentiality.The British tabloid Daily Mirror reported Monday that the tall, blond man – who remained steadfastly silent after he was found on the beach – had been released after identifying himself as a German who came to Britain when he lost his job in Paris.Despite reports that the man performed parts of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and the music of John Lennon on the Medway Maritime Hospital’s piano, the newspaper said the man was only able only to tap repeatedly at the same piano key.Hospital staff have disputed that.Social workers and staff from the National Missing Persons Helpline spent four months investigating more than 800 potential leads about his identity, including reports he was Czech musician Tomas Strnad or French entertainer Steven Villa Massone. Reports that he was a Canadian eccentric skilled on the piano also proved false.Interpreters from eastern Europe were summoned when the man was first found, but no one was able to get through to him and break his silence.Intriguingly, all the labels had been cut out of his clothing.When the man first was found, he was taken to the hospital in Gillingham. He later was transferred to the Little Brook Hospital, a mental care unit south of London.The British press reported that the man was an accomplished pianist and likened the case of the “Piano Man” to the Oscar-winning 1996 movie “Shine,” about acclaimed pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a nervous breakdown while playing.The story also echoed the movie “Ladies in Lavender,” about a violinist who washes ashore in Cornwall, England, after a shipwreck, speaking only Polish. He is nursed back to health by sisters played by Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. He goes on to give a triumphant concert.The Daily Mirror on Monday quoted an unidentified hospital source as saying that the man had told hospital staff Friday that he has two sisters and his father owns a farm in Germany.After losing his job in Paris, he traveled in a distressed state to Britain by train through the Channel Tunnel, the newspaper said.The Daily Mirror said the man previously worked with mental patients and copied some of their behavior to fool British doctors into believing he was mentally ill.”He claims he was found by police as he was trying to commit suicide,” the Daily Mirror quoted its source as saying. “He was obviously in a distressed state and didn’t talk to police. Then it just went on from there.”Vail, Colorado
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