- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

LONDON — The unknown mute found wandering in sodden clothes on a desolate English beach four months ago turned out to be not so much “Piano Man” as con man.

Piano Man broke his silence late last week and disclosed that, far from losing his voice, memory and identity, he was a jobless German homosexual who simply had decided to keep quiet about it. He was discharged abruptly by the Kent hospital that had been caring for him.

Authorities yesterday refused to reveal his name or personal details.

The news was greeted with disappointment by lovers of a good mystery. Since he was found wandering at Sheppey on the Kent coast in southern England in April, the story of the young man who “only came to life” when seated before a piano had gripped millions.

News organizations around the world carried his story, and he was variously identified as a Scandinavian concert pianist, a French street entertainer, a Czech musician and a Canadian asylum seeker.

When he surprised staff at the Little Brook Hospital in Dartford by suddenly starting to speak, he revealed that he had a father and two sisters living on a farm in Bavaria and had arrived in Kent by Eurostar train after losing a job in Paris.

“He was obviously in a disturbed frame of mind when he arrived,” a source said. “He said he had gone to the beach at Minster to commit suicide. Then the police found him. He said he did not like the way he had been treated, so he had decided not to speak to anyone.”

The source said the man might have fooled medical specialists by mimicking behavior he had seen when he worked in a psychiatric unit.

“If that is so, he was a marvelous actor.”

After staff confirmed the 20-year-old man’s identity with the German Embassy in London, he boarded a flight for his homeland on Saturday and disappeared as abruptly as he had arrived, leaving a trail of embarrassment and an estimated $32,410 hole in the finances of the health trust that treated him.

Worse than the prosaic end to the mystery were suggestions that Piano Man could hardly play the piano at all. However, people who heard him said that although he was never the virtuoso he was made out to be, he could play a limited number of tunes with the competence of “an enthusiastic amateur.”

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