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Sunday, May 29, 2005


THE mysteriously mute piano virtuoso found wandering on an English beach last month could be a Czech classical musician who once played in a rock band, a drummer in the combo has been quoted as saying.

Klaudius Kryspin said he immediately recognised the man as Thomas Strnad, even though it had been many years since they played together in a tribute band called Ropotamo.

"When I saw the picture in the newspapers, I knew it was Thomas," Mr Kryspin told Britain's Mail on Sunday from Prague.

Officials caring for the so-called "piano man" at Little Brook Hospital in Dartford, Kent, southeast England, said it has informed the Metropolitan Police missing persons bureau about the claim.

The tall blond man, thought to be in his 20s or early 30s, was found on April 7 on the beach at Minster, on the south coast of England. He was soaking wet, but fully dressed in a black suit, with no clue as to his origin.

He has not spoken since and has not responded to written appeals while being kept under observation.

However, he has fascinated social workers, the British media and the general public because of his one means of communication: playing classical piano music.

When given a pencil and paper by hospital staff, the mystery man drew a grand piano - and then, when shown a piano at the hospital chapel, he impressed his carers with a remarkable virtuoso performance.

Mr Kryspin, who has not seen Mr Strnad in nine years, said his old band mate had trained as a classical musician, and that his "first love was always Chopin, Mozart and Liszt".

He added that Mr Strnad did not appear to get along with his family, and three years ago was going around asking for money to buy bread.

He said he immediately recognised Mr Strnad from a photo he saw on the internet, and that "he still looks like the same guy I knew back then".

"The only things that are different are his hair colour and his sad face. He looks like a broken man."

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