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Piano Man: Not me says Czech

Missing Persons
Piano Man

LONDON, England -- Hopes that the mysterious "Piano Man" had been identified as a Czech musician called Tomas Strnad were dashed when Strnad appeared on television to say it was not him.

Friends of Strnad, who lives in Prague, told British newspapers at the weekend they were "convinced" he was the man found wandering near a southern England beach more than seven weeks ago.

But on Tuesday night Strnad appeared on Czech Television's prime time news program and ended the speculation.

He told the station: "I just want to set the record straight so that the people are not lied to. It is not me, it is somebody else."

Michael Kocab, who had put forward the theory that his friend was the Piano Man, then appeared in the same report saying he may have made a mistake.

The development again again throws open the identity of the mystery man who has not spoken since he was discovered wandering aimlessly near the beach in Minster on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

More than 1,100 people worldwide have contacted a special helpline set up to try and identify "Mr X" who still has not spoken to health workers.

The Strnad lead was described by carers as "significant" with plans to bring in a Czech interpreter already in motion.

The West Kent NHS Trust, which is caring for Mr X, said today: "Bringing in a Czech interpreter is something that we could do anyway because we have used a limited number of languages but it may become less of a priority now."

A spokesman told the UK's Press Association: "Inquiries over his identity are ongoing and there is no one lead that is stronger than the other. It is a slow process in that every lead has to be checked out thoroughly."

"Piano Man" stunned carers with a four-hour virtuoso piano performance after he was found wandering near a beach on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, southern England, more than seven weeks ago.

He was wearing a waterlogged dinner suit and tie, from which all the labels had been cut out.

Staff at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham gave the tall, blonde man a pen and paper in the hope he would write his name or draw his country's flag.

Instead, he drew highly detailed pictures of a grand piano, showing not only the keys, but also the intricate inner workings of the instrument.

When shown a piano in the hospital chapel, he played classical music "beautifully." Since then, he has written music, but remains mute.

Interpreters from Poland, Latvia and Lithuania were brought in to see if he was from Eastern Europe, and possibly an asylum seeker, but no-one could get through to him.

"Piano Man" recently had an upright piano installed in his room at the secure north Kent mental health unit where he is being held and doctors have been considering using music and art therapy to try and communicate with him.

The case has drawn comparisons with the Oscar-winning 1996 film Shine, which tells the moving story of acclaimed pianist David Helfgott who suffered a nervous breakdown while playing.

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