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Alert Reader Identifies Seattle Amnesiac

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Alert Reader Identifies Seattle Amnesiac


Alert Reader Identifies Seattle Amnesiac

Alert Reader Identifies Seattle Amnesiac

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Seattle psychologists struggled for weeks to determine who Jon Doe was, and, in fact, whether his amnesia was genuine. Now, an alert online newspaper reader solved the mystery. He is Edward Lighthart, an American who has spent many years overseas. Ian Ith, the Seattle Times reporter who worked on the story, said the mystery was solved just hours after the story went live on the paper's Web site.


Score another one for the Internet. This time for being a finder of lost persons or, actually, mislaid identities. The Seattle Times reported today on a fifty-ish man who turned up in Discovery Park with a reddish, handlebar moustache, $600 in his sock and a very spotty memory. He could speak fluent French and German, as well as English. He remembered having lived in Slovakia and having taught English in China. He remembered a particular lecture with a slideshow at Columbia. He remembered the name of a deceased wife, an old girlfriend and his elementary school. He remembered lots of things. He just couldn't remember who he was.

Well, joining us now is one of The Seattle Times' reporters who worked on this story, Ian Ith. And Mr. Ith, I understand this mystery was pretty quickly solved after the story was published.

Mr. IAN ITH (Reporter, The Seattle Times): Yes, it was solved in a matter of hours.

SIEGEL: What happened?

Mr. ITH: Well, we went live with the story at 12:30 a.m. on the - our Web site. And by 5:30 this morning, Pacific Time, we had received an email from a man in China who recognized John Doe and who he was and a little bit of his backstory and was able to connect us to Web sites that had Mr. Doe's resume and his true identity.

SIEGEL: And Mr. Doe turns out to be?

Mr. ITH: He turns out to be a man named Edward Lighthart, with a fairly extensive resume that matches all the snippets of information that he had recalled and given to us.

SIEGEL: How long, as far as you know, how long had Mr. Lighthart been in the dark as to his own identity?

Mr. ITH: Well, we know that he walked out of Discovery Park in Seattle on July 30th and flagged down a bus driver and told the bus driver he didn't know who he was, why he was in Seattle. He seemed to recall that he might've been sleeping in the bushes there in the park for a couple of days. But he didn't look like a transient or a homeless person at all. His clothing was pressed. His - he was wearing a blazer and a very expensive dress shirt made in London. He was taken to a hospital, who basically took him in.

SIEGEL: And did doctors conclude that this indeed was a case of amnesia or did they question his sincerity? What was his examination like?

Mr. ITH: Well, we don't know specifically what all battery of tests they did, but they interviewed him. He's very sincere. But at a certain point, they really didn't know what to make of him. They just assumed it was one of the extremely rare cases that do sometimes occur when people for no particular reason at all lose the sense of memory that would allow them to connect with their own identity.

SIEGEL: Now, did you or your colleagues meet with Mr. Lighthart today and tell him who he is? Perhaps show him his Web site?

Mr. ITH: We got to sit down with Mr. Lighthart this morning. He had seen the Web site with his portrait on it. And the name just doesn't ring a bell. He's excited that people have come to such assistance to help him out, but the name doesn't connect right now.

SIEGEL: I've seen the picture of him on the Web site for his PR agency in Vienna. And I've seen the picture in The Seattle Times, certainly looks like the same man, a few years and a few pounds later. Does he see the resemblance between those two pages?

Mr. ITH: Well, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that he really is Edward Lighthart. He knows intellectually. It's just that there is no connection emotionally or psychologically right now between the name Edward Lighthart and him. And it could be some time before he can come to grips with that. He - you know, just finding his name and finding his general background doesn't get him out of the woods. He has no ID and no connection to his bank accounts. Somewhere in the world there is an apartment and a computer waiting for Mr. Lighthart to come home. But right now we don't know where that is.

SIEGEL: Well, Ian Ith, thank you very much for talking with us about the story.

Mr. ITH: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Ian Ith of The Seattle Times. He's one of those who reported on a John Doe who, it turns out, is actually named Edward Lighthart.

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