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Czech Musician Surfaces in Prague, Says He's Not the 'Piano Man'

British officials are back to sifting through tips on their mystery patient.

June 01, 2005|John Daniszewski | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — Two days after officials in Britain said he might be a "significant lead" in their search for the identity of a mysterious patient known here as the "Piano Man," Czech musician Tomas Strnad emerged Tuesday in his native Prague to declare that it was a case of mistaken identity.

"I want to set the record straight. This is someone else, not me," said Strnad, who had been identified earlier by prominent Czech rock musician Michal Kocab and two other former associates as the silent young man who turned up in April walking in the rain on a British coastal isle.

Strnad, who was sought by reporters in the Czech Republic for at least a week after being described by old friends in the music business as bearing a strong resemblance to published photos of the "Piano Man," went on Czech television to deny the connection.

Kocab, quoted by the Czech News Agency on Tuesday night, said he now agreed that it was not Strnad in the British hospital.

The development leaves officials in Britain still searching through more than 1,000 tips and about 250 names for the identity of the man, who has not spoken since he was found on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, southeastern England.

The man, who appears to be in his late 20s or early 30s and has short, fair hair, was found in a black suit that was soaking wet. The labels in his clothing had been cut out.

When given a pencil and paper, he drew a detailed picture of a grand piano and various keyboards.

That led hospital officials to show him a piano in a hospital chapel. He sat down and played classical-sounding pieces, sometimes for hours on end, resisting when he was taken away from the instrument.

In a statement Sunday, the West Kent National Health Trust, which is caring for the man, said that it considered the tip from the Czech musicians a "significant lead," but that it was also pursuing other information.

It said the patient's physical and mental health "continues to be assessed."

The trust, which has been refusing calls from journalists and referring calls from the public to a police missing-persons hotline, had no further statement as of late Tuesday.

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