The last days of ‘Peter Bergmann’

There is a haunting short documentary about a mysterious man who appeared in 2009 in Sligo, a small seaside town in Ireland, with a carefully laid out plan to get rid of all traces of his identity. He was successful in that no one has since been able to figure out who he was, which is quite surprising in this day and age when it is so hard to hide our traces.


  1. DonDueed says


    My first thought was that, given his very serious illness, he wanted to commit suicide but concealed his identity so his family could collect insurance. But that doesn’t entirely fit — if he just disappeared, no insurance would be paid for a considerable time. And it doesn’t explain his disposal of the purple bag’s contents.

    One clue is that he seemed to need to be in Sligo specifically. Could he have known someone there, someone who he delivered those bags to, and who would respect his wish for anonymity?

  2. Mano Singham says

    One other thing I was curious about was what kind of accent he had. The hotel front desk people would be able to make some guesses as to where he came from but the documentary did not say.

  3. ridana says

    Putting aside who he was, how did he die? oO They said he didn’t drown, had no drugs on board, and it seems unlikely that the cancer killed him right on schedule according to plan. So what did he die of? The equivocation, “at least not externally” is odd -- if they knew about the tumors, they must’ve done an autopsy which would’ve included examination of the lungs for salt water.

  4. RationalismRules says

    What the guy actually said was “there were no external signs of saltwater drowning”.

    Wikipedia says the medical examiner deemed the cause of death to be drowning. If that’s accurate, then presumably there were internal signs, like water in the lungs. Why the documentary was cut that particular way is anyone’s guess. Maybe to play up the mysteriousness angle?

  5. RationalismRules says

    I’m apparently a bit reactive today. I responded to your first sentence without reading the rest. Apologies.

  6. ridana says

    @ RR: No problem. I didn’t know there was a wiki article about it. But that just makes that statement even stranger to emphasize that. What are the external signs of salt water drowning (aside from salt water on skin and clothes)? Or any drowning, for that matter (i.e., specifically drowning as opposed to just being wet)? If you have internal evidence of drowning, why even mention external evidence, unless the mystery is how he could have drowned without external signs of drowning, whatever those may be.

  7. Mano Singham says

    The Wikipedia page on this is pretty interesting but does not add the much to the documentary other than that he spoke with a thick German accent and that his body when found was naked. I was a bit surprised that on the last day, he threw the torn up pieces of paper he head into a nearby waste bin in view of the security cameras, given how careful he had been earlier to hide the locations of his disposals. Perhaps he knew that restaurants throw the trash away frequently and torn paper would be untraceable.

    I am also impressed at the ubiquity of CCTV cameras.

    The real mystery is why someone who was about to die (either due to his many serious ailments or because he was intending to kill himself) would go to such lengths to hide his identity. It must be because he was protecting someone who might be adversely affected by his death. Or conversely, maybe he wanted someone to live in constant doubt (and fear?) as to where he was and the possibility of his return.

    One other noteworthy fact is that although his serious illnesses must have caused him a lot of constant pain, there were no traces any pain medication at all in his system. And yet not one person indicated that he seemed to show any signs of pain or even discomfort. What kind of person would be able to maintain such a Stoic facade?

  8. says

    I am also impressed at the ubiquity of CCTV cameras.

    I knew it was bad in the UK, but I’m surprised Ireland would have so many too. Maybe I shouldn’t be. Some police states are built around law enforcement violence, mass incarceration, and elected prosecutors who will do anything to keep being elected. Some police states are built around surveillance. And the average citizen doesn’t mind living in an oppressive police state, as long as they are made to feel “safe”.

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