'Piano Man' breaks silence and heads home

Piano Man, the mute and anonymous stranger whose identity mystified social workers for more than four months, has suddenly identified himself, left hospital and flown home to Germany.

The shy, anxious individual was found wandering on a beach in the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, in the early hours of April 7, in a dripping wet suit and tie. After being taken into care, his only means of communication appeared to be through his musical virtuosity.

The puzzle captured the public imagination, and the image of the tall, blonde and dishevelled-looking man in the ill-fitting dinner suit was flashed around the world.

Leads identified the 6ft eccentric as everything from a French busker, or a Norwegian student, to a Czech concert pianist. Psychiatrists believed that he was suffering either from post-traumatic stress disorder or a form of autism.

Today, however, hospital workers who had been caring for Piano Man, announced that he had been discharged at the weekend after a dramatic improvement in his condition.

A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry later confirmed that he was a 20-year-old German national who had now returned home to his native Bavaria. He stipulated before he left that he did not want to speak to the press.

For the millions who have been touched by the man's plight, his story has a somewhat unsatisfactory finalé as so much remains unknown. Medical and social care agencies are bound by confidentiality laws, which mean that they can not release his name or details of his plight. It is unclear whether the Piano Man was genuinely ill - or playing a uniquely peculiar prank.

The Mirror reported today that he told nursing staff he was German, had been working in Paris, but caught a Eurostar to England after losing his job. The newspaper says that he has now returned to Germany, where he has two sisters and his father owns a farm.

An insider at the Little Brook Hospital in Dartford, Kent, told the newspaper that the man had been attempting to commit suicide when he was picked up by police. He is said to have once worked with psychiatric patients and mimicked their characteristics to dupe doctors into believing that he was ill.

"A nurse went into his room last Friday and said ‘Are you going to speak to us today?’ He simply answered ‘Yes, I think I will.’

"We were stunned. He has been with us for months and we have got nowhere with him. We thought he was going to be with us for ever," the insider said.

And, in a final revelation which will forever shatter the enigma of a man often compared to the pianist David Helfgott whose battles with mental illness were portrayed in the film Shine, the source told the paper that he was in fact "rubbish" at the piano.

When he was first discovered, the man refused to speak but when presented with a pen and paper, sketched a detailed picture of a grand piano. He was subsequently led to a piano in the hospital's chapel where his four-hour performance was described by Michael Camp, his social worker, as "really amazing".

Now it is suggested that he merely tapped at one key repeatedly.

The source told The Mirror: "He claims he was found by police as he was trying to commit suicide. He was obviously in a distressed state and didn't talk to police. Then it just went on from there

"He had us all fooled though," the insider added.

In a short statement, the West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust said: "The patient dubbed 'Piano Man' is no longer in our care. He has been discharged following a marked improvement in his condition.

"The rules regarding patient confidentiality mean that the Trust is unable to make any further comment on this story. This includes any comment on his condition, current location or the circumstances in which he left the Trust's care."

The Trust refused to comment on suggestions that it was considering making a claim for compensation from the man for the tens of thousands of pounds spent on his treatment.

The German embassy in London said that it had been called by health officials in Kent about the case, and had then contacted the man’s family in Germany to verify his identity.

A spokesman said: "The hospital called us up on Friday morning saying that there was a man claiming to be a German national. We contacted his parents and his identification was confirmed. We gave him replacement travel documents and he left the UK using his own arrangements on Saturday morning.

"The hospital did not give any indication of his health. This was a neutral affair for us. It was someone who had lost his passport and needed to get back to Germany and we helped him."

Autor: Simon Freeman
Medio: Times Online
Fecha: Lunes 22 de agosto de 2005
Notas: Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.
ID: 1929 Editar

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