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Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Canada puzzles over Mr Nobody
The Toronto skyline
Living on the streets of Toronto with no memory and no passport
By Diane Pain in Toronto

A mystery man with amnesia is trapped in Canada because he has been unable to obtain a Canadian birth certificate.

The Supreme Court judge in Vancouver, British Columbia, refused to issue the document to the man because he could not prove who he was or where he was born.

I don't think people realise what it would be like if you didn't know who you were, or who your parents were or where you were born

Lawyer Manuel Azevedo

Without it the man, who is known as Philip Staufen and believed to be British, is unable to obtain a passport. It means he cannot travel to Britain to begin to find his true identity.

Canadian police believe the man, thought to be in his 20s, may have suffered head trauma after being attacked.

He woke up in a Toronto hospital in November 1999 after being unconscious for several days.


He had a broken nose and no memory of who he was or how he had got there.

His hospital bracelet contained the details Philip Staufen, born 7 June, 1975. But he said he did not recognise the name nor the date.

Neither the hospital authorities or the police in Toronto have been able to find out who provided those details to the hospital or if Philip Staufen is his real name.

Mr Staufen was eventually diagnosed as suffering from post-concussion global amnesia.

His lawyer, Manuel Azevedo, said since then he has been living in limbo because he has no legal identity

Yorkshire accent

"I don't think people realise what it would be like if you didn't know who you were, or who your parents were or where you were born," said Mr Azevedo.

A linguistics expert in Toronto said Mr Staufen's accent was English and that he was probably from the Yorkshire area.

Since then his photograph has been shown throughout Canada and Britain but nobody appears to have recognised him.

Police also sent his fingerprints to most English speaking countries and Germany because he has a German last name, but without any success.

After spending a year in Toronto without an identity, Mr Staufen moved to Vancouver and applied to the courts there for help.

Street life

Because he does not have a birth certificate he cannot get a passport, a travel document or a social security number which would allow him to work.

His lawyer said Mr Staufen had been struggling to survive on welfare of around 250 a month and had been forced to live on the streets.

The British Colombia Supreme Court, however, dismissed his application and refused to issue him with a birth certificate because he had no identification.

Search for clues

His lawyer said he will appeal against the ruling and will keep lobbying the authorities for help.

Mr Azevedo said if Canadian officials fear his client's story is a hoax, they can always revoke any documentation they grant.

He said Philip Staufen is depressed and getting more desperate to go to Britain to find out if anyone can provide clues as to who he really is.

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