Berlin police left stumped by identity of unconscious jogger

Four months ago, a man fell into a coma after collapsing while jogging in a Berlin park. Police have followed every possible lead, but still have no idea who he is.

Berlin police left stumped by identity of unconscious jogger
A photo of the man, dated June 25th. Photo: DPA

On March 13th a man, probably in his 60s, collapsed while jogging through Volkspark Wilmersdorf in the west of the capital city. As he fell, he knocked his head off a stone and fell unconscious. Four months later, he still hasn't woken up.

By this stage worried family members, friends or neighbours would have normally made contact with authorities. Failing that, it is usually a fairly straightforward matter for police to track down his home and loved ones.

Not this time, though. The man is still lying in the intensive care station of the Charité hospital with no name next to his bed.

“We have never had such a case in Berlin,” a police spokeswoman said. “This is a completely new situation for our missing persons department. There is absolutely nothing to go on here.”

Investigators have tried everything in their attempt to figure out who on earth the man is.

Twice they have published photos of him, the first time without his prosthetic teeth, the second time with them. They have also published a photo of his key set, the only thing other than a couple of euros that he had in his pocket.

The keys have proved just as mysterious, though. The are produced by a large manufacturer but have no security code, a rarity which makes it impossible for the police to identify where the man lived.

Police say that the man was too well groomed to have been homeless. He was clean shaved, had healthy skin and had a trained, fit body.

It is possible that the man lived an extremely isolated life. But when police are confronted by such cases there is normally some tip off that puts them on the right path. An overflowing mailbox is reported by a neighbour, a doctor or dentist recognizes their patient’s face from the missing person’s report.

Another theory is that people know who the man is but are remaining silent.

In Germany at least, the man appears to have no skeletons in his closet. His fingerprint wasn’t found in police files, meaning he has never been suspected of a crime. An attempt to identity him via his DNA also hasn't produces results.

Another possibility is that the man was a tourist only staying temporarily in the city. But if that was the case, a hotel somewhere would have reported that a bill had been left unpaid and that a guest had left luggage in a room.

As long as no family turn up, a court appointed carer will make decisions related to the man’s well being. And, as it can not been established whether the man has health insurance, the hospital itself is carrying the hefty costs for his care.

At this stage it is also not clear how badly damaged his brain was during the fall. If he ever does wake up, it is possible that the man himself will no longer know who he is.

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.