Mystery amnesiac – found in Norway – regains slivers of memory

'John Smith', photo: CTK

A Czech man suffering from amnesia, found in a snowdrift in Oslo last December, has begun regaining fragments of memory after speaking with his family over the phone. It has come to light that the man, who has gone under the name of John Smith since his rescue, worked for the Interior Ministry.

'John Smith',  photo: CTK
With every turn, the mystery surrounding a 36-year-old calling himself John Smith has deepened, even as fresh details are revealed about his identity. A few weeks ago it was not even clear he was Czech, although he understood the language, along with Slovak, Russian and Polish. Since, he has been identified by his family after his photo was officially posted and at the weekend he reportedly spoke with them for three hours, helping him regain some fragments of lost memories.

But satisfactory answers are not likely to be revealed for some time; the big questions include why he may have been abducted or held against his will, how his memory was damaged and how he was treated (including whether he suffered sexual abuse) as well as how he escaped. Perhaps the most intriguing development were reports that John Smith was employed by the Czech police or the Interior Ministry, told by his father that he had been “working on something big” at the time of his alleged abduction. There was the possibility he had security clearance and access to sensitive information. The country’s interior minister, Milan Chovanec, briefly addressed the question on Sunday:

“We are looking into the question of whether he worked for the police or the Czech Interior Ministry. Certainly it is something that requires our attention and we are taking it very seriously. I cannot rule out he worked either for the police or for the ministry and we will tell the public when we know more.”

Milan Chovanec,  photo: Fililp Jandourek
On Monday, the Interior Ministry followed up by confirming the mystery Czech had been employed as an IT specialist at the ministry in the past but Czech Radio reported only until 2002. Were he to return to Czech soil, Mr Smith would be given personal protection, the ministry confirmed, but for now the father will only travel to Norway to meet with his son. In any case, the amnesia victim had already stated he was unsure he would be safe returning to the Czech Republic and was unsure that he was even safe in Norway.

As for the victim’s chances of additional recovery from amnesia? Specialists say much will depend on the nature of the injury but that some memories should slowly come back, although the process can take anywhere from weeks to years. A leading Czech neurologist has pointed out the loss of episodic memory ie. autobiographical knowledge suggested damage to the right frontal lobe but understandably could not make a precise diagnosis without information from MRIs and other tests conducted. In any event, the case is in the hands of Norwegian investigators and the Czech police – who, even were they so inclined – cannot reveal more during an ongoing investigation. It will be some time yet before the public learns more about the true identity of John Smith.