Lost with amnesia: How do you get home?

"Roger" Image copyright Herefordshire Council
Image caption Herefordshire Council is paying for "Roger's" care but said the department for work and pensions will not give funding without knowing his true identity

When someone is lost, with no memory of who they are or how they got there, how do they get home?

It's a question still awaiting an answer in the case of an elderly man found wandering an English city in November.

The tall, slim, grey-haired man said his name was Roger Curry, but he could not remember anything else about himself.

After further inquiries, police now think Roger Curry may have been a now-deceased friend of the man.

Image copyright West Mercia Police
Image caption This photo of "Roger" was taken shortly after he was found in November

More on this and other stories from Herefordshire

The man with memory loss, who for now West Mercia Police are calling "Roger", shows signs of dementia, doctors say.

He was found wandering in the Credenhill area of Hereford on 7 November by passers-by who took him to Hereford County Hospital.

"People with no memory are often taken to hospital to see if there is a physical or mental issue which requires treatment," said Louise Vesely-Shore, from the National Crime Agency's Missing Persons Bureau.

"They could have been in a car crash and have a head injury or suffer from dementia.

"Treatment can sometimes help them to remember pieces of information which can help identify them."

For those searching for a lost loved one, local hospitals can offer a port of call.

Police look for clues the lost person may have on them - mobile phone contacts are an easy way to trace family and friends. But clothing labels and tattoos also give vital leads.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mobile phones hold vital clues to a person's identity

There were no such pointers in Roger's case, said Adam Vanner, missing persons co-ordinator at West Mercia Police.

"We checked CCTV in the area where Roger was found to see if we could retrace his steps.

"We contacted nursing homes, care agencies, local authorities and neighbouring police forces.

"We ran his fingerprints through our database and put out a national broadcast to every force to see if he matched with any of their missing people.

"This all happened in the first few hours.

"Roger does not say much but speaks with either an American or Canadian accent, so we contacted both embassies.

"We notified the Missing Persons Bureau and our corporate communications put out an appeal through the local media."

All these routes have so far led to dead ends.

Ms Vesely-Shore said the Missing Persons Bureau had a DNA database, but it required consent from the lost person or their guardian - which was problematic in amnesia cases.

"The police have specialist officers to interview vulnerable people," she said.

"And it can take some time for those with memory loss to build up a relationship with officers or those looking after them."

She said the bureau only saw "a handful" of people in Roger's situation each year, as most were identified "quite quickly".

This was the case involving a man who woke up on a park bench in Birmingham unable to remember anything about himself.

He walked to Digbeth police station on New Year's Day 2013 and was taken to Birmingham City Hospital where nurses called him "Steve".

Police released his photograph to the media and eight days later he was reunited with his family who confirmed his name was Robert.

Image caption Robert, who woke up on a park bench in Birmingham, said he vaguely remembered having a sister and had recognised the Wolverhampton Wanderers badge on television

A "mystery man" found in a Peterborough park with a "severe case of amnesia" was named as 22-year-old Alvydas Kanaporis, from Lithuania.

Mr Kanaporis was found in the early hours of 18 May 2014 and taken into the care of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Trust (CPFT).

He spoke with an Eastern European accent and his details were circulated in an international media appeal two months later.

A man claiming to be his brother contacted authorities.

Image copyright CPFT
Image caption Alvydas Kanaporis could not remember any details of his life including his name, age or where he was from

A man found wandering the streets of Sheerness, Kent, in a soaking wet suit and tie in April 2005 became known as "Piano Man".

Image copyright Medway Maritime Hospital
Image caption The identity of so-called Piano Man baffled authorities for four months

He did not speak, so staff at the Medway Maritime Hospital gave him a pen and paper and he drew detailed pictures of a grand piano.

Image copyright PA
Image caption "Piano Man" did not speak for four months but drew pictures of pianos

When staff showed him the piano in the hospital's chapel, he reportedly gave a classical performance.

Piano Man broke his silence in August saying he was German. The embassy was contacted and he was reunited with his father.

The mystery man was named as Andreas Grassl, 20, from Prosdorf, Bavaria.

Image copyright Mike Gunnill
Image caption Andreas Grassl's lawyer said his client (pictured) was unwell, and had not faked amnesia

A man was reunited with his father after spotting him on the BBC's Missing Live programme - five years after he thought he was cremated.

John Renehan's father John Delaney went missing in 2000 and when a decomposed body matching his description was found in 2003 he was identified by a coroner.

But it emerged that Mr Delaney, 71, of Oldham, Greater Manchester had been put in a care home after being found wandering around the town with memory loss.

Image caption Greater Manchester Police admitted "mistakes were made" in the identification process that led to John Delaney's family believing he was dead

In each of these cases, vital clues about the person's identity were apparent from the individual themselves.

Local authorities, hospitals, police and the Missing Persons Bureau pulled together to share these clues in a bid to reunite the lost person with their loved ones.

Mr Vanner believes the public is the police's strongest tool in identifying people who do not know who they are themselves.

He said: "We have had positive news from our first press appeal for information to help identify Roger.

"Someone contacted us and said they thought they recognised the man.

"They said they believed he had served in the Army in Hereford and the name he had given was that of a friend who had died.

"We managed to get in touch with the ex-commanding officer and we are in the process of checking their records of all the ex-servicemen back to World War Two.

"Unfortunately the name the member of the public gave us is not a match. But we will continue to explore that avenue."

He urged anyone who believed they knew Roger's true identity to get in touch.

Mandy Appleby, Herefordshire Council's head of safeguarding, said: "If we can identify who Roger is and better understand his background, we can ensure he's receiving the right care to meet his needs."

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