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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Man lost at sea trying to find himself

With no ID and no memory, he may be from Greece, he may be a footballer, and he may have come to Dubai to marry his girlfriend.
A man who says he cannot remember anything of his past is at Dubai Police headquarters.
A man who says he cannot remember anything of his past is at Dubai Police headquarters.

DUBAI // A man claiming to suffer from amnesia says the last thing he remembers is staring into his fiancée's eyes. The man, who thinks his name is Andreas Kostantinidis, was found swimming towards Palm Deira and brought to shore by a security guard. The guard gave him food and water before taking him to a police station. Police officials later transferred him to Rashid Hospital, where he was treated for dehydration. He is currently in police custody after being discharged from hospital.

Medical examination suggests his cognitive capabilities are complete, according to Dubai Police sources. "Our legal responsibility dictates that we not let him go," said Lt Col Ahmad al Merri, head of criminal investigations at Dubai Police. "We have put him up in one of our offices until we find out his identity. We have sympathy for his condition, but he could also be a security liability." Mr Kostantinidis (or possibly not), who believes himself to be a 25-year-old Greek, is of medium height, with brown hair and a very light beard. He has two tattoos on his hands and one on his leg.

He claims he can remember only a few scattered details of his life. "I must have gone through a shock which made me unable to remember things," Mr Kostantinidis told The National. "But since I came to the police, I can remember. I have learnt to count to 10 in Arabic," he said. Dr Abdul Karim Msaddi, medical director and neurosurgeon at the NeuroSpinal Hospital in Dubai, said amnesia usually occurs after trauma to the brain, and is temporary.

Dr Ali Hosseinkhah, a senior consultant neurologist at the German Centre for Neurology and Psychiatry in Dubai, added that a patient can be officially diagnosed with amnesia only after intense testing and observation. Normally, he said, there is no reason for a patient to lie, so there is usually no need to prove or disprove the amnesia. He said patients might get "caught up in contradictions and false declarations" if they were lying about their condition.

The police contacted the Greek Consulate in Dubai to enquire about Mr Kostantinidis. "A representative from the consulate met with him and found he could speak only a few words of Greek," said Lt Col al Merri. "They say he cannot be Greek." Dr Msaddi added it was unlikely that someone would forget their native language while retaining a second language. "Scientific studies have proved that, in general, the first language to recover is the maternal language," he explained. "After that, they may recover a secondary language."

However, the man insists he would not have forgotten his nationality. "I would not forget my country; it is in my heart just like my name," he said. There are no missing persons reports matching Mr Kostantinidis's description, and requests sent to Interpol have yielded no results. There was a moment of hope when police found a Greek citizen who goes by the name of Andreas Kostantinidis living in Dubai. The 28-year-old man works for a computer company. "We called him in and he did not know anything about him," said Lt Col al Merri.

"The last thing I remember is the eyes of my woman," said the man in custody. "I think I came to Dubai to marry her. We wanted a beach wedding." He said the woman came with him from Greece. Questioned further about the whereabouts of the woman and why she has not contacted police, Mr Kostantinidis responded angrily: " I do not want to talk about her." Lt Col al Merri said the story of the woman was a new one. "He has never told us about the woman before; this is new," he said. "We want to help him, but the problem is that he is inconsistent and his body language suggests that he is elusive."

Mr Kostantinidis also claims he can remember being a professional football player, but cannot remember which club he played for. "I hope police can find out information about me, because I do not do anything but wait," he said. "I hope someone will come to get me. But if they do not, maybe I can play for a football club in the Emirates and stay here." Police say anyone able to identify the man should contact the nearest police station, or call 999 or the Ports Station on 04 345 9999.

@Email:wissa@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Mitya Underwood

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