Identity of ‘Piano Man’ remains a mystery as French lead goes cold
By Terri Judd and Ruth Hetherington
19 May 2005
It proved a fittingly bizarre twist in an increasingly intriguing tale. Days after health workers appealed for help in identifying their patient – the mysterious silent “Piano Man” – succour came from an unexpected source. A Polish mime artist approached a police officer in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome and named the enigma as a French friend and musician.
West Kent NHS Trust had appealed to the media for help in identifying the young man, discovered wandering in the dark on 7 April, wearing a dripping wet tie and black suit with the labels removed. While he has not said a word or offered any clues as to his identity, he plays the piano “beautifully”.
The news reached Rome, where the street artist Dariusz Dydymski, 33, spotted a photograph. He told the authorities he was “99 per cent sure” the man whose face he had seen staring from a newspaper was Steven Villa Massone, a pianist with whom he had worked on the French Riviera. Italian police immediately contacted Interpol.
Not for the first time, however, the trail led to a dead end. Last night, The Independent tracked the reportedly missing man down in Nice. The 24-year-old said he was flattered by the attention, but was most certainly not the young man in the care of a Kent hospital.
Having not heard from Mr Dydymski, his ex-flatmate, for more than a year, he said: “I found out this morning when I saw in the Italian papers that he had said that man was me. I didn’t understand what had happened, and suddenly I had lots of calls asking if I was the pianist.”
For health workers in Britain, it meant a return to the drawing board in the hope that their patient’s identity is somewhere in the dozens of names that have been suggested from countries as far afield as Australia, Japan and Canada.
So far the national missing persons helpline has received more than 600 calls, half of which suggested names. Now it will be a slow process narrowing down the suggestions to more credible leads for investigation. At least half a dozen British names have come up repeatedly.
“The overwhelming response from the public, both in the UK and abroad, means there is a large quantity of information to sift through and this process will begin today,” a spokesman for West Kent NHS Trust said.
Michael Camp, a social worker who has looked after the Piano Man since he was found in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, added: “It is a slow process. We need to be thorough so we do not miss the one that is right. I would love to know who he is.”
A team of health professionals is being established to follow up leads, while others continue to try to find adequate treatment for the man at a secure mental unit. His carers believe he may have suffered amnesia or a breakdown, but are unable to offer full treatment without identifying the cause.
He surprised carers with a four-hour virtuoso performance during his early days in hospital, and continued to play repeated renditions of well-known classics, as well as what are believed to be his own compositions. It was the only time, health workers said, that the agitated young man looked relaxed and happy.
Yet, Mr Camp said yesterday, all efforts to communicate with him continue to prove fruitless. While he no longer has a piano, he has quickly fashioned himself a substitute: “He has drawn a life- size scale keyboard and plays that in his mind. That is probably all he has got at the moment.”