Mr. Nobody in citizenship limbo
Can't get passport
Monday, December 5, 2005
Byline: Peter Brieger and Katya Delimbeuf
Dateline: TORONTO; LISBON
Source: National Post
TORONTO and LISBON - Almost six years after Mr. Nobody wandered into
Toronto hospital claiming he'd lost his memory, the man with no identity
is back where he started: in a homeless shelter, searching for a country
willing to call him a citizen.
Canadian immigration authorities have consistently refused to grant
him a passport since he arrived under a cloud of mystery in 1999,
saying he'd been mugged in a Toronto park. So Sywald Skeid (possibly
also known as Philip Staufen, Keith Ryan and Georges Lecuit) is now
trying to win citizenship across the Atlantic.His
Canadian wife has petitioned Portuguese authorities to give Mr. Skeid,
now living in Victoria, B.C., a passport because of her dual citizenship.
But Portuguese authorities aren't exactly welcoming the mysterious
30-year-old -- believed by many to be a former gay porn actor -- with
"Even if he applied for Portuguese nationality through his marriage,
the lack of identity documents would make the process impossible,"
said Fernando Simoes Bento, a spokesman at the Portuguese Foreign
Neither Portuguese diplomats in Canada nor immigration officials will
discuss the case of a man who has been trapped in nationality limbo
Meanwhile, Nathalie Herve, Mr. Skeid's wife and the estranged daughter
of his former B.C. lawyer, said she is running out of money, and hope.
Working as an English teacher in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, Ms.
Herve told the National Post that she can't afford to keep her husband
in their Victoria apartment, so he's been forced to live in a shelter
among the "violent and vulgar people" Mr. Skeid tried to
avoid when he first arrived penniless in Toronto.
Ms. Herve, who's been in Portugal since March, said she's had a nervous
breakdown after striking out with the country's immigration authorities,
Amnesty International and even the Red Cross, which she hoped would
declare her husband "stateless" so he could leave Canada.
But the 26-year-old isn't planning to pack her bags just yet, nor
has Mr. Skeid asked her to give up the fight. "Going back would
mean giving up," she said. "He is a man of his word, and
so am I."
A Toronto detective who tried to help the mystery man recover his
identity doesn't share the view that Mr. Nobody is committed to the
truth -- and he's not the only one.
Doubts about Mr. Skeid's amnesia story spiked in 2001 when international
efforts to identify him turned up photos and movies starring Georges
Lecuit, a porn actor in London who looked remarkably similar to the
man of many names.
"Yeah, he's the guy," said Detective Stephen Bone, who now
works in the Toronto Police Services fraud section. "I have absolutely
Det. Bone thinks Mr. Skeid's memory loss is just a ruse to forget
his past. "I'd have to think so," Det. Bone said. "We're
faced with the knowledge we have now, which is that he worked as a
model in London."
The peculiar story began in November, 1999, when Mr. Skeid says he
woke up in a Toronto park with head injuries from an apparent mugging.
He told police he could remember nothing, except that he was born
in 1975 with the name Philip Staufen, a medieval German king.
After bouncing from shelter to shelter, well-meaning strangers tried
to help the multilingual man with a British accent, who showed little
interest in finding out his true identity.
The case garnered heavy media attention and then-immigration minister
Elinor Caplan offered Mr. Skeid a temporary residence permit so he
could work in this country. He initially refused the offer, demanding
full citizenship, much to the shock of immigration officials.
He later accepted the permit, though his status meant he couldn't
leave the country.
Over the years, Mr. Skeid moved to Montreal and then to Halifax
changing his name and appearance several times. But last year, immigration
officials -- armed with the knowledge that former acquaintances in
England identified him -- demanded Mr. Skeid sit down with them for
a chat about his past. He was later arrested and jailed for a short
time, and launched a hunger strike.
''There is no reason why he can't be at home even if they aren't satisfied
with his identity,'' Ms. Herve said at the time. ''He has nowhere
to go and he's not a danger to anyone.''
After his release, the couple moved back to Victoria, where Mr. Skeid
now lives. He is supposed to check in monthly with immigration officials.
A CBC investigation this year found a Romanian woman who believed
Mr. Skeid is her missing son, a theory buffered by family pictures
that show a young man who bears a strong resemblance to Ms. Herve's
* Black & White Photo: Toronto Police Photo / Mr. Nobody has
identities several times, and his true one is uncertain.