Piano Man's family, friends never recognised him

24th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

24 August 2005, HAMBURG - The mysterious Piano Man is back home in his quiet farm village in southern Germany, where his stunned family and friends insist they never for a second suspected he was the tall blond man whose picture was emblazoned in newspapers and on TV.

24 August 2005

HAMBURG - The mysterious Piano Man is back home in his quiet farm village in southern Germany, where his stunned family and friends insist they never for a second suspected he was the tall blond man whose picture was emblazoned in newspapers and on TV.

Reporters and TV crews from around the world have descended on the little Bavarian hamlet of Prosdorf, where the 21-year-old former Catholic altar boy has sought refuge with his family after being discharged from a mental hospital in Britain last Friday.

His name is Andreas and, while his surname is being withheld by authorities, everybody in Prosdorf has known him all his life. What they didn't know was that Andreas was the Piano Man.

"We can't believe that nice little Andreas is the Piano Man," a farm hand neighbour told RTL Television Tuesday evening.

"He was the smartest kid in school and was always well-behaved and kind of shy and would never hurt a fly," he added. "It never occurred to us that the Piano Man and Andreas were one and the same person."

A next-door neighbour acknowledged that he and his wife had seen reports about the Piano Man on television.

"But the wife remembers that the pictures were a bit blurry so we never realised it was the boy who grew up next door to us, the skinny kid who was an altar boy in the local church. I mean, the chances against that are a million to one," he said.

Even his own father failed to recognise Andreas. Brushing off questions from a horde of reporters barraging his farmhouse doorstep, Andreas' father gruffly said, "I hadn't heard from him for a few months, but it hadn't occurred to me to think he might be in trouble."

The last anybody in Prosdorf had heard, Andreas had opted to do volunteer work at a mental hospital in lieu of mandatory military service with the German Bundeswehr armed forces.

It was there, helping out psych ward staff with mental patients, that Andreas learned to mimic certain psychotic traits, experts believe.

But his lawyers say he was not faking when he was taken to the mental health clinic in England.

"Andreas was in no way engaged in a hoax," said Christian Baumann, a lawyer representing Andreas. "He did in fact suffer from amnesia and shock and was unable to speak as a result of severe emotional trauma."

Barmann's remarks, made at an impromptu news conference in Germany Tuesday, came amid reports that Andreas could face charges of fraud and might be required to compensate the British National Health Service for hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care.

He was admitted to hospital in Kent in April after being found soaking wet on a beach near Sheerness on the English Channel.

For months his photo was shown around the world and hundreds of leads were followed up. At one time he was thought to have been a Czech concert pianist. All of the leads turned out to be baseless.

Finally last Friday, a nurse entered his room at Little Brook Hospital in Dartford, England, and routinely asked, "Are you going to speak to us today?" He simply answered, "Yes, I think I will."

He said he had been working in Paris but had lost his job. He added that he was gay and that his father owned a farm in Germany and he had two sisters, said the report in the Mirror daily on Monday.

He said he made his way to Britain on a Eurostar train and claimed he was trying to commit suicide when police picked him up on the beach in April.

Andreas was nicknamed Piano Man after reports that he entertained hospital staff with a remarkable talent for classical recitals. When medics gave him a pen and paper, he drew detailed pictures of a grand piano.

His lawyer said that the reports of being a virtuoso were exaggerated, but that Andreas does in fact play the piano.

"He has an electronic keyboard and loves to play for hours," Baumann said. "While that is not quite the same as giving a recital at Carnegie Hall, he is in fact a pretty good keyboarder."

During the four months he was at the English clinic, a battery of tests were carried out and psychiatrists went on camera with elaborate explanations of the Piano Man's plight.

Diagnoses focused on post-traumatic stress disorder. Later it was thought he might be autistic.

The NHS Trust, embarrassed by the whole affair, has declined comment pending its own investigation. The hospital reportedly intends to seek compensation for the time and resources it spent in trying to help him.

DPA

Subject: German news

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