- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2005

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) — The mysteriously mute pianist found wandering on an English beach last month could be a Czech classical musician who once played in a rock band, a drummer in the combo was quoted yesterday as saying.

Klaudius Kryspin said he immediately recognized the man as Thomas Strnad, even though it has been many years since they played together in a tribute band called Ropotamo.

“When I saw the picture in the newspapers, I knew it was Thomas,” Mr. Kryspin told the Mail on Sunday newspaper in Prague.

Officials caring for the so-called “piano man” at Little Brook Hospital in Dartford, Kent, southeastern England, said it has informed the Metropolitan Police missing persons bureau about the claim.

A spokesman for the National Missing Persons Helpline told the London Daily Telegraph yesterday: “We have heard about this chap, but we have had 250 names suggested to us so it’s just another one that we have got to look into.”

The tall blond man — thought to be in his 20s or early 30s — was found April 7 on the beach at Minster, on the southern coast of England, soaking wet but fully dressed in a black suit, with no clue as to his origin.

He has not spoken since and has not responded to written appeals while being kept under observation.

However, he has fascinated social workers, the British media and the general public with his one means of communication — playing classical piano music.

When given pencil and paper by hospital staff, the mystery man drew a grand piano — and then, when shown a piano at the hospital chapel, he impressed his caregivers with a two-hour performance.

Mr. Kryspin, who has not seen Mr. Strnad in nine years, said that his old bandmate had trained as a classical musician and that his “first love was always Chopin, Mozart and Liszt.”

He added that Mr. Strnad did not appear to get along with his family, and three years ago was going around asking for money to buy bread.

He said he immediately recognized Mr. Strnad from a photo he saw on the Internet, adding, “He still looks like the same guy I knew back then.”

“The only things that are different are his hair color and his sad face. He looks like a broken man,” he said.

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