British Checking Leads On ‘Piano Man'

London— British health officials are investigating a possible breakthrough in the enigmatic case of the “Piano Man,” the silent musician whose identity has remained a mystery since he was found wandering confused in the rain on an English isle in early April.

Several musicians from the Czech Republic said they believe that the forlorn figure, who has not spoken to the doctors caring for him but has played for hours at a piano, is Tomas Strnad, a keyboardist from Prague who yearned to become a star and had spoken of going abroad to seek his musical fortune.

According to acquaintances of Strnad's from the Czech Republic, there is a strong physical resemblance between him and the photographs of the Piano Man released by the Kent National Health Service, which has taken charge of the man's care since he was found on the Isle of Sheppey.

They say the unusual musical ability and emotional difficulties described in newspaper accounts of the man also correspond to their memory of Strnad, a classically trained musician known for long, solitary sojourns at the piano playing Rachmaninoff and other composers' works from memory.

The possible connection came to light more than a week ago, when an old friend of Strnad's now living in Ohio contacted the Los Angeles Times, as well as other newspapers, following an appeal by British medical authorities for information about the patient, whom they believe may be suffering from amnesia.

Richard Kryspin, 38, who emigrated to Columbus, Ohio, in the late 1980s, had seen the photographs of the Piano Man in the press and said he immediately thought of Strnad, with whom he had played music nearly two decades before. Kryspin called his twin brother, Klaudius, who also had been in the band.

Klaudius Kryspin, now the drummer for Prazski Vyber (Prague Select), the Czech Republic's best-known rock band, was skeptical at first. But after studying a photo of the patient standing on the British hospital grounds, he became convinced that it was Strnad.

Klaudius Kryspin flew Monday to Britain, his brother said, hoping to be allowed to see the patient, whom hospital officials call “Mr. X.”

Besides the two Kryspin brothers, at least one other person has identified the Piano Man as Strnad. Michal Kocab, the lead singer of Prazski Vyber who was also an important figure in the 1989 Velvet Revolution against Communist rule and later became an adviser to former President Vaclav Havel, told the Times last week that he had recently seen Strnad.

Kocab said that he had stopped at a gas station and was startled by Strnad, whom he almost did not recognize because he looked “like a homeless man.”

Kocab said he was not sure of the date of that encounter, but believed that it was April 10. If the recollection is correct, then the Piano Man could not be Strnad, who was found in England several days before then.

At the gas station, Kocab recalled, Strnad had said he intended to leave the Czech Republic and go away to launch his career.

Richard Kryspin said he did not want any attention for himself and alerted authorities and his brother and other friends in Prague in order to help Strnad.

He had difficulty getting through to the hospital because of the hundreds of other tips in the case. “I sort of understand,” Kryspin said. “I was just one of thousands.”

Until Sunday, hospital authorities had not made any comment on the possible Prague connection, but after stories ran this weekend in the British press, the hospital issued a statement saying it was a noteworthy development in their investigation.

The statement, attributed to a spokesman from the Kent and Medway National Health Service Trust, said: “At this stage it is not possible to confirm the identity of Mr. X, but it is fair to say this is a significant lead. The trust will however continue to work with the police to review and investigate the rest of the information that people have supplied.

“The trust now plans to bring in a Czech interpreter. Mr. X continues to be cared for by the trust, his physical health remains good and his mental health continues to be assessed.”

Meanwhile, Kocab said, Strnad's acquaintances in Prague have been trying without success to contact his parents. He said Strnad's relations with his family may have been strained.

“I really believe that is who the person is,” said Richard Kryspin, voicing satisfaction that “his name now is considered the top lead for the British investigators.”

Special correspondent Marie Drapalova in Prague and Janet Stobart of the Times' London bureau contributed to this report.

Medio: Los Angeles Times
Fecha: Martes 31 de mayo de 2005
ID: 1530 Editar

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