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Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Last Days of Peter Bergmann. Really?

Watch this 19-mn documentary by Ciaran Cassidy:
http://aeon.co/video/psychology/the-last-days-of-peter-bergmann-a-short-mystery-film/

Peter Bergmann outside Sligo City Hotel


And read whatever you can find on the case (there isn't so much), for example this Irish Independent article:
http://www.independent.ie/regionals/sligochampion/news/mystery-mans-last-surprise-27570679.html

or this unidentified dead person report issued by the German police (IMAGE MAY BE DISTRESSING):
http://www.bka.de/nn_198456/DE/Fahndungen/Personen/UnbekannteTote/IrlandMann/IrlandMann.html

I found both the story and Cassidy's film captivating. I read it won awards at various film festivals and I feel that is entirely deserved. I'd like to see Cassidy's previous film called Collaboration horizontale. Judging from website comments and discussion forums, I'm not the only one who has become engrossed in this mystery.

SPOILER ALERT - WATCH THE FILM BEFORE READING THE REST OF THIS POST

Now here's my point - and as far as I know I'm the first one to make it publicly. Any information you can send to support or refute my theory is welcome. I think there is a strong probability that the film is a hoax. I have no evidence, but there is a whole series of clues that set me thinking about it:
  • a senior police officer who's been working on an Austria-related case for 4 years and talks about "a place in Austria called Wien, W-I-E-N"? Hmm.
  • the bus driver sounds a tad too dramatic (acting?)
  • I am no specialist, but it seemed to me that CCTV footage is too good to be true: for example, 'Peter Bergmann' is conveniently facing the camera when reading his papers at the café; we have really good close-ups on him (think of how hard it is to see the faces of suspected criminals on 'real' CCTV footage they show us on TV)
  • there is a LinkedIn page for John O'Reilly, Detective Superintendent at Sligo Garda station (see also this Irish Examiner article mentioning him about an unrelated case http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/girl-kept-escaping-from-care-prior-to-her-death-233395.html) - but the film credits call him Detective Superintendent John Reilly (without the O')
  • the German police report refers to death-by-drowning, but in the film we are told (by the coroner?) that there was no water in PB's lungs and that the cause of death is unknown
  • the last words of the film are ('John Reilly' speaking): "...Peter Bergmann does not exist. It's highly likely that he never did". A metafictional wink?

My assumption is that there really was a man called Peter Bergmann found dead at Rosses Point, whose body was never claimed, but the purple plastic bag, the taxi ride to the beach and the whole hotel shebang are fiction. Which makes the film really great as such, like William Boyd's Nat Tate or Jean-Teddy Filippe's Documents interdits. I am sure some people say they remember the case back in 2009. But then again, maybe they really do.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have a reason as to why the police would make this up? I don't disagree with you, I'd just like to know your reasoning. I find the case really interesting.

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