Police baffled by mystery of amnesiac found on Kent beach


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The Independent Online

He doesn't know why, but he wants be called Frank. A week after he apparently awoke on a beach in Kent with no idea who he is or how he got there, however, the true identity of this mysterious amnesiac is still bewildering police and the local community.

The polite and well-spoken man, thought to be in his early fifties to late sixties, turned up at Victoria Hospital in the coastal town of Deal last Wednesday clutching sunglasses, a walking stick and a packet of cigarettes.

Dressed tidily in a white T-shirt, black Wrangler jeans and a patterned sweatshirt, and prepared for the elements with a navy blue walker's coat and beige walking boots, he is believed to have been living relatively normally until all knowledge of his past life deserted him.

With little to go on, and receiving no missing persons alerts matching his description, police have now issued a photograph of him and called for the public's help in the investigation.

Detective Sergeant Shaun Creed, who is leading the efforts to find the man his life and home, told The Independent he seemed "quite calm, a little bit withdrawn but not overtly distressed".

"When asked his name, he felt Frank was something he wanted to say, but other than that he doesn't seem to have any recall of his memories," said Mr Creed. He added that the man arrived at the hospital complaining of "a pounding headache, pain to the neck and memory loss", but tests have revealed no apparent reason for his problems.

He has since been transferred to the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate where, Mr Creed said, he has "preferred to take himself out of the ward to a quieter area, but he's quite happy to talk to people on a one-to-one basis."

He is not the first man with no memories to appear as if from nowhere on a British beach. In 2005 Andreas Grassl, a 20-year-old German national who came to be known as the Piano Man, became the subject of a worldwide identity hunt during which he spoke no words but did show a keeness for playing the instrument.

He suddenly began communicating again after several months, leading some to speculate that he had faked his condition, but hospital staff maintained his illness – put down to pressure he felt about being gay – was real.

However John Darwin, who stumbled into a police station in 2007 claiming not to know who he was, later turned out to have faked his own death while living with his wife as part of a life insurance fraud.

Yet according to Eli Jaldow, a consultant neuro-psychologist at the memory disorders clinic at St Thomas's hospital in central London, such cases are very real and tend to be caused by financial, marital or social stress rather than bangs to the head.

"There's a switch in certain susceptible individuals," he said. "When they're faced with terrible things they can't cope with, there's a self-protective mechanism that kicks in and wipes out all those memories so they don't remember what they've been exposed to."

Dr Jaldow added that the resulting identity blackout, which tends to affect men more than women, can last anything from days to months. Treatments range from simply coaxing memories out through talking to sedation or even hypnosis, though the longer the delay in treatment the more difficult the recovery becomes.