'Piano man' takes refuge at home as family and friends search for key to his actions


Prosdorf, Germany: The hunt for the "piano man" has moved from a Kent hospital to a remote Bavarian farmhouse.

Andreas Grassl, 20, whose four-month silence in a British psychiatric hospital spawned elaborate theories of a troubled musical genius, took refuge in his family home as his life story began to emerge.

Former friends and neighbours of Grassl in Prosdorf, a farming village of only eight houses near the Czech border, described him as a quiet, slightly eccentric young man. He was the only person from the village to take Abitur (an advanced school examination), with French and biology majors, and his teachers described him as "likeable" and "intelligent".

He was an internet surfer who apparently spent hours in chat rooms where he was known by his on-line title "Scatman".

Grassl's father, Josef, insisted yesterday that his son was no trickster and said he needed time to explain the motives for his extraordinary vanishing act, which took him from Paris to the Kent hospital from which he was discharged this week.

Mr Grassl, 46, burst into tears as he spoke of his son: "He is back where he belongs with his family. What happened to him is still a mystery. Andreas is not in a fit state to talk about his experiences. I am protecting him from the media because of his state of mind."
Mr Grassl and his wife, Christa, 43, who also have two daughters, reported their son missing in May this year, shortly after he was found wandering in a sodden dinner jacket on a desolate Kent beach.

They said their last contact had been when he set off to the town of Saarbreucken near France to work for nine months in a home for the handicapped, as an alternative to performing compulsory military service.

The couple said their son told them that he had gone on to Paris to continue his studies. "We called him around once a month, but in May he stopped answering his mobile phone," Mr Grassl said. "After that we contacted the German and French police and he was registered as a missing person. But they said there was nothing that could be done because he was an adult," he added.

Mr Grassl said he was contacted this week by the German embassy in London. "We never knew he was in England at all and we were worried stiff," he said.

He added: " Andreas has not explained exactly what happened, but I know he is not a con- man. We need to protect him because we fear for his state of mind. He needs time to explain."

Andreas Grassl, who had refused to speak since his hospital admission in May, was initially thought to be a concert-level pianist, after social workers said he had performed a "beautiful" rendition of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

His lawyer said Grassl, although self-taught, was a proficient musician. Yesterday it also emerged that he wrote a column for a newspaper in the nearby town of Regensburg, but had developed a reputation as a loner. His ex-school friends said he had a "distant look" in his eyes.

A neighbour, who declined to be named, said: "He was a good pupil, but he was a little bit strange. There was a time when he acted oddly."

Franz Loeffler, Prosdorf's mayor, said yesterday: "The Grassls are good and decent Christians. There is probably a very good reason for what happened." - The Independent

Medio: Cape Times
Fecha: Jueves 25 de agosto de 2005
Notas: ©2005 The Cape Times & Independent Online (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.
ID: 1961 Editar

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