The Piano Man is identified (as a one-note Bavarian nurse)

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The Independent Online

Then, after four months in the starring role of a mystery that captivated the world, and without uttering a word, the enigma known as Piano Man revealed his strangest talent of all. He can talk after all.

Managers at the Little Brook Hospital in Dartford, Kent, where Piano Man had been cared for since May, confirmed that the gaunt blond-haired man had been discharged after a "marked improvement" in his condition.

A source at the West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust described as "largely correct" reports that far from being a concert-level pianist struck dumb by an unutterable ordeal, Piano Man is a German former psychiatric worker whose musical skills are seemingly limited to hitting a single key repeatedly.

The German foreign ministry confirmed that the unnamed patient, who is 20, had flown to Munich in his home region of Bavaria on Saturday.

One staff member at the NHS trust said the patient, who had resolutely refused to speak since he was found in a dripping suit on a Kent beach, astonished his carers a week ago by suddenly revealing his family history.

The worker told the Daily Mirror: "A nurse went into his room on Friday and said, 'Are you going to speak to us today?' He simply answered, 'Yes, I think I will'. We were stunned. He has been with us for months and we have got nowhere with him. We thought he was going to be with us for ever.

"We found out he used to work with mentally-ill patients and seems to have used their characteristics. He had us all fooled though, including two very senior doctors.

"He told us all about his family in Germany. His dad owns a farm and he has two sisters. He also said he was gay."

The appearance of the slight stranger on a beach near Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, dressed in a black suit from which all the labels had been cut, created headlines around the world.

More than 200 names were put forward from Argentina to the Netherlands suggesting identities for Piano Man, who gained his nickname after performing parts of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake for four hours non-stop within hours of his discovery. Social workers who first dealt with the anxious patient described his playing as "beautiful".

Investigators checked with orchestras touring south-east England to see if they were missing any players while some suggested the mystery man was a Scandinavian seaman swept from his ship off the Kent coast.

The reality is that Piano Man apparently arrived in Britain on board Eurostar after losing his job in Paris, and had been trying to take his life when he was spotted by police on the beach.

The Daily Mirror reported that his status as a virtuoso had also been exaggerated. Staff insisted he was nonetheless able to perform as they had described.

Although the man was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or autism, as some experts suggested, there were suggestions that he may have a mental condition.

A source said: "If he is a conman, remaining silent for four months ... is fairly extreme behaviour. He is either of little ambition or perhaps himself disturbed." The West Kent NHS trust refused to comment on suggestions that it might seek to sue the man to recover some of the tens of thousands of pounds spent on his care. During his treatment, staff brought in translators from Norway to Latvia to try to coax Piano Man into speaking and he was seen by at least two senior psychiatrists.

The end of Piano Man's silence concludes one of the more intriguing cases of supposed identity loss. Theories as to his identity included claims that he was Tomas Strnad, a member of Czech tribute band, and Steven Villa Massone, a French street performer. But both Mr Strnad and Mr Massone turned up alive and well in their home countries.

Earlier this month, staff at the Little Brook Hospital said that he may never be identified.