Mystery "shipwreck survivor" is Czech


He appeared out of the blue - floating on a raft in the North Sea between Denmark and Norway. Like the Mystery Piano Man found in Britain last year, the "shipwreck survivor" who was spotted by the crew of a Swedish tanker on April 21st appeared to have no past and no identity. The mystery has now been solved. The man is a 49 year old Czech who was driven by wanderlust.

He spent several days out in the sea, floating on a raft he'd made from wooden planks and four barrels. When the crew of the Swedish tanker pulled him on board ship he was dehydrated and suffering from frostbite -and appeared more than a little disoriented. He claimed to have been abandoned by a ship but could not say what ship it was or where it was bound for. Either he could not or would not say who he was - changing his story frequently and at one point claiming to be an American who had been living in Europe. A lengthy investigation has now revealed his identity - confirmed by his own mother who lives in Mlada Boleslav, north-east of Prague.

Jiri Kvapil
The man is Jiri Kvapil originally from a village called Babylon. From an early age his ambition was to travel around the world. Trapped behind closed borders in communist Czechoslovakia he was not likely to fulfil his dream so he emigrated in 1989 - ironically just before the fall of communism. His mother says he sent her postcards from all over the world, including Germany and Great Britain. Driven by wanderlust he failed to settle down anywhere and it is not clear where -or if - he worked at all.

On a recent short visit back home he took away all his personal possessions - including the postcards that he'd sent, as if wanting to break all ties with the past. His mother says her son is seriously ill and was determined to go his way. She believes he wanted to sail his raft to America. "He was always a good lad - but fate wasn't kind," she told the police sadly. Whether or not America was his destination, Jiri Kvapil's next trip will be back to the Czech Republic where the Swedish authorities plan to extradite him in the coming days.