'Piano Man' identity revealed

Family thought 20-year-old Bavarian was dead

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The identity of the so-called "Piano Man" is no longer a mystery after media reports named him as Andreas Grassl from the tiny community of Prosdorf in Bavaria, Germany.

His father Josef and neighbors confirmed that Grassl, 20, was the gaunt figure whose picture had featured in media reports across the world after he was taken into care but refused to say a word for four months.

His father Josef, 46, told Britain's Daily Mirror tabloid: "We honestly thought he was dead. Not knowing what had happened to him was torture."

"I am afraid for his health and his state of mind," he told the Daily Mail "He has still not explained what happened to him."

The Grassl family lost contact with Andreas after he travelled to France and then eventually to Britain, where he was found wandering on a Kent beach in April -- wet, bedraggled, and wearing a suit with the labels cut out.

He became known as "Piano Man" after -- while remaining mute -- drawing a picture of a piano for hospital staff.

Later he was said to have "played classical music beautifully for four hours" at the mental health unit in Dartford, Kent, south-east England, where he was treated.

Dairy farmer Josef Grassl told reporters that the family were unaware of the worldwide publicity and campaign to identify his son, who baffled health workers in the UK with his silence.

He did not read newspapers or watch TV, he said, and had not seen reports about "Piano Man." He added he would not have recognized him in any case because he had known him at home clean shaven and wearing glasses.

Andreas Grassl, who his family said was suffering mental problems, stayed indoors Tuesday and did not respond to TV and newspaper requests for interviews and photographs.

Andreas was finally reunited with his family at Munich airport on Saturday, he embraced them and said simply: "Mir gehts gut" -- I am fine, the Daily Mirror said.

Then he said: "I am so happy to be home." He told his father, according to the paper: "I just do not know what happened to me. I get little flashes of my past, like in a film. But I have no idea how I ended up in England like that."

British media reports said that "Piano Man" had worked with the mentally handicapped then got a job in Paris to improve his French. But he lost his position and travelled to Britain on a Eurostar train.

His father told reporters he had stopped phoning in May, but when he had reported him missing he was told his son was over 18 and there was nothing they could do.

Former friends and neighbors of Grassl in Prosdorf, a remote farming village of only eight houses near the Czech border, told The Independent he was a quiet, slightly eccentric young man.

He was the only person from the village to take Abitur, higher-level school exams -- his main subjects were French and biology -- friends said. His teachers described him as a "likeable" and "intelligent" student who rarely misbehaved in class.

He was a keen Internet surfer who apparently spent hours in chat rooms where he was known by his online title "Scatman," the Independent added.

As to conflicting reports about how well he played the piano, father Josef told the Daily Mirror Andreas was a "talented musician" who entertained relatives on an accordion and played a simple keyboard alongside his younger sister. He later "found comfort" in the piano, he said.

Family lawyer Dr Christian Baumann told The Sun newspaper that Andreas was not trying to fool anyone in Britain by staying silent.

"He is ill and he still needs time to recover. He did not make a conscious decision to stay silent," he said.

Agencias: Associated Press
Medio: CNN
Fecha: Miércoles 24 de agosto de 2005
Notas: Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.
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