x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Police close to identifying mystery amnesia swimmer

Passport photo found in Dubai hotel guest records resembles man with amnesia found swimming near Palm Deira.

Police have confirmed a man with amnesia who was found swimming near The Palm Deira in August is Andrea Pecora from Italy.
Police have confirmed a man with amnesia who was found swimming near The Palm Deira in August is Andrea Pecora from Italy.

DUBAI // Police may be close to identifying a man with amnesia found swimming near Palm Deira in August last year.

The breakthrough came after nearly nine months of investigations, when police found a passport copy of a man who closely resembles the Palm Deira swimmer in the guest records of a hotel in Dubai.

Airport records confirmed the owner of the passport entered the country in August, soon before the unidentified man was taken into custody.

At the time the man was found, he said he thought his name was Andreas Kostantinidis and he was a 25-year-old from Greece. However, the passport copy found in the hotel suggests he is 31 and not from Greece.

"He is from a Mediterranean country but we cannot disclose which until we get a confirmation from that country," said Lt Col Ahmad al Merri, the head of criminal investigations at Dubai Police. "We must wait for verification as this passport copy could be forged."

The passport copy has been sent to the relevant consulate and police hope to get a response on its authenticity soon. They have been investigating the man's identity since a security guard found him swimming near Palm Deira and brought him to shore.

There were no missing persons reports matching the description of the man, who is of medium height, with brown hair and two tattoos on his hands and one on his leg.

Requests sent to Interpol also yielded no response.

"We were looking for any clue all over the city, but recently he was able to remember that he had checked into a hotel in Al Ghurair, which enabled us to concentrate our search there. We found a passport copy with a photograph that matches him in one of the neighbourhood's hotels," said Lt Col al Merri.

The man was initially held in police custody after a medical examination suggested his cognitive capabilities were complete.

Lt Col Al Merri explained at the time of his detention: "Our legal responsibility dictates that we not let him go. 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."

The man was later transferred to Al Amal Psychiatric Hospital, where he is currently receiving treatment.

"The treatments he was receiving helped him to refresh his memory; this is how he remembered that he had stayed in a hotel," said Lt Col al Merri.

Further investigation based on the passport copy indicate that the man arrived at Dubai International Airport on August 1. Previously, police had said that they could not find a record of him in the country's airports. "Once we had a name it became easier to search for him on the airports' database," said Lt Col al Merri.

Initially, a team of five investigators was assigned to the case, but with the new information, more officers were brought on to the team.

"For us, finding his real identity is a top priority and we have been directed by the Dubai Police Chief to do everything we can to ensure that this man is reunited with his family and sent back to his home country," said Lt Col al Merri.

When interviewed by The National last August, the man said the last thing he could recall was staring into his fiancée's eyes. He said he thought he had come to Dubai to marry her.

"I must have gone through a shock that made me unable to remember things," he said. "The last thing I remember is the eyes of my woman. I think I came to Dubai to marry her. We wanted a beach wedding."

He also claimed he was a professional football player, but could not 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."