Homeless again,
Mr. Nobody in citizenship limbo

Can't get passport

National Post
Monday, December 5, 2005

Page: A5
Section: Canada

Byline: Peter Brieger and Katya Delimbeuf

Source: National Post

TORONTO and LISBON - Almost six years after Mr. Nobody wandered into a
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 open arms.
"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 Office Ministry.

Neither Portuguese diplomats in Canada nor immigration officials will
discuss the case of a man who has been trapped in nationality limbo for years.
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 no doubt."
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 husband.

* Black & White Photo: Toronto Police Photo / Mr. Nobody has changed
identities several times, and his true one is uncertain.