Mystery of 'piano man' who plays but remains silent

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The Independent Online

He was found drenched, wearing a well-tailored evening suit, wandering a beach at night unwilling - or perhaps unable - to answer the most basic questions about his origin.

He was found drenched, wearing a well-tailored evening suit, wandering a beach at night unwilling - or perhaps unable - to answer the most basic questions about his origin.

Unable to identify him, baffled police brought the six-foot tall man, believed to be in his 20s or 30s, to a psychiatric hospital where he was given a pencil and paper in the hope he would communicate in writing.

He wrote nothing, but instead sketched a Swedish flag and a grand piano, getting the details exact, down to the number of keys. Delighted staff at Medway Maritime Hospital, Kent led the man to a room in the psychiatric unit with a piano, where he began to play meandering, melancholic airs. "Piano man", as he has been dubbed, has since given a complete rendition of Swan Lake.

Ramanah Venkiah, manager of the unit, said: "He has been playing the piano to a very high quality for up to four hours at a time and staff say it is a real pleasure to hear it. But we still have no idea who he is because he is not speaking to us."

Police, who found the man last month during a torrential rain storm in Sheerness, Kent, believe he is English. His picture has been posted on the National Missing Person's Helpline website, but he has not yet been identified. Orchestras are being contacted in the hope that he will be recognised.

Michael Camp, a care worker, said: "He appears to be a professional pianist of exceptional ability. When he plays, all his anxiety disappears."

The similarities between the man and the Australian pianist David Helfgott, who overcame a nervous breakdown to return to performing after an interval of 10 years, are striking. Helfgott's experience inspired the 1996 film Shine, starring Geoffrey Rush.

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