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The Mystery of the Unknown Man

Darragh Macintyre unravels the mystery of an elderly man with an American accent who was found lost on the streets of Hereford.


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Nobody knew who this man was.

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We have got no identity documents, no indication where he's from.

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And any family.

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Until we identified him from an old high school picture.

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-That's Roger.

-Are you sure?

-No question about it.

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So how did an American with dementia, end up lost in England?

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This is a big, burly macho man, in tears,

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saying, "Who does this to their parents?"

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We uncover the shocking truth.

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Kevin, we need to find out what happened to your dad.

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Did you dump your father in England, Kevin?

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Of how an elderly man was dumped on the British care system

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by his family.

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Kevin, you're looking incredibly sinister,

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take your mask off and speak properly.

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Wow, look how far that is now.

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Look how far...

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Look at that fire...

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This man doesn't know who he is.

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And neither does anyone else.

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-Yes, thank you, yeah.

-Yeah, it's good.

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-Yeah.

-Great.

-He has an American accent but was found with no ID.

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Dressed in brand-new clothes from Tesco.

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We have a person, we have a possible name, but nothing else.

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We have got no identity documents, no indication where he's from.

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And any family.

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When we filmed him last March,

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he'd been in this nursing home in Credenhill for four months.

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He'd only mentioned a full name once. Roger Curry.

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Everyone calls him Roger, but nobody knows if that's his real name.

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He was found close to the bus station in Hereford,

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and taken to hospital.

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We trawled through the CCTV, we've done a press appeal,

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we've also contacted the National Crime Agency,

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we have gone to Interpol. We've done a fingerprint search,

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done a DNA search that hasn't yielded any results.

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-None at all?

-None at all.

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Doctors diagnosed dementia but physically Roger was in good shape.

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His nails were fine, his hair had been cut, his skin was impeccable.

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He'd been looked after.

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The first night that he came in, he kind of sat himself back

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in the chair and was quite happy to have

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a cup of tea and have something to eat and just sit and watch the TV.

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Roger's illness means he can't tell his story.

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But I want to get to the bottom of it.

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Was it snowing earlier on, did I hear you say?

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Yeah. It's smoking because...

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It's smoking because of the... Because of the fire?

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You speak with an accent from America, are you American?

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Five.

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Five?

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'I want to find out who really is, and how he ended up here.'

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Do you have any memories of your family?

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I can't imagine this is easy for you.

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Have you learnt anything about him, since he's come here?

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Nothing at all. He's a blank canvas. Completely blank.

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What happens if he is identified?

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And if he has another family and he has to leave here?

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It will be devastating. But then, you know, because the staff...

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We've adopted him.

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And for Roger, it's wonderful, but, you know, he's become our Roger and...

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Yeah...

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Roger, thank you very much.

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'Roger may have a family out there who are desperately searching for him.'

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You're a gentleman.

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'Or he may have been abandoned by somebody who doesn't want to

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'pay for his care.'

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-OK?

-Yes, Kenneth.

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Are you doing OK?

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Oh, I hope so.

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There have been many stories about Roger in the press.

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But still, no answers.

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The night that I visit Roger, BBC Midlands puts out a fresh appeal.

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Who is this man?

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International efforts to find out are floundering.

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..Mention the name Roger Curry but no-one knows if that's correct.

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The story gets a big response from viewers.

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You can see from this BBC Facebook page, exactly how much interest this

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story has generated. So many different posts,

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so many different theories, as to exactly who Roger Curry really is.

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But there is one post here, among the dozens,

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that is particularly intriguing.

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It features a photograph this woman has found...

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Of a younger Roger Curry, and you know what?

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It really does look like him.

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The picture comes from a 1958 American high school yearbook.

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It's the same name, but is it the same man?

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This is the town of Edmonds in the far north-west of the USA.

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It's where the Roger Curry pictured in the yearbook

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went to high school.

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There's a woman here... Name is Helen...

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and she looks after the web pages for the class of 1958.

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Edmonds High School.

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-Hello, Helen?

-Hi, yes.

-How are you doing?

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-Darragh Macintyre, Lovely to meet you.

-Nice to see you.

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Thank you very much for giving me some time.

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I'm anxious to hear what you've learned about Roger.

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Well, you might be able to help me too.

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Helen Gregory Nopson was in the same year as Roger.

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Oh, you've got the yearbook out. Yes.

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Her husband, Jim, was in the same class.

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-This must be Jim, is it?

-This is Jim.

-Jim, hello. How are you?

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-Lovely to meet you.

-Actually a classmate of...

-Roger's, as well?

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They've got the original 1958 high school yearbook.

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This is a picture of him right here.

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That the Roger Curry?

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Now, do you recognise this man from this photograph here?

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-I saw a resemblance.

-Yeah.

-I saw it in the jawline here. In his chin...

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-It almost looks like he's got the little...

-Dimple.

-Dimple on it.

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And you can see the dimple here, yes.

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-And a wide mouth.

-Do you have any memory of him from high school?

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-Not really.

-Not at all.

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-No-one's heard anything about him since we graduated.

-No.

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-He was a mystery man even then?

-Yeah.

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When we match the pictures up, the likeness is striking.

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Roger Curry's high school is long closed...

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But we found an address in Edmonds where we think he used to live.

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I think it's this house here. It's that small little house just there.

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That is the house...

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..that I believe young Roger Curry grew up in.

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Let's go and see if anyone here has any memory of Roger.

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It's definitely the right house.

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But I don't think anyone has been here for a long time. And if this...

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was Roger's home, of course...

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His connection here goes back more than 50 years.

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We've traced the Roger Curry from Edmonds and found

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he moved 1,000 miles down the West Coast to California.

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I'm on my way to LA.

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So, the key to unlocking this puzzle appears to be in Whittier,

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a suburb of Los Angeles.

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And that's where we're going right now.

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Whittier is often used as a backdrop for films.

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Like the Back To The Future movie.

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It's classic suburban America.

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The street I'm looking for

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is the picture of middle-class respectability.

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But one house stands out... Number 14817.

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It's been abandoned after a fire.

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This is Roger Curry's listed address.

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So, is he the man found lost in England?

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DOG BARKS

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-Hello.

-Hi, how are you?

-Jerry, isn't it?

-Yes.

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Darragh Macintyre from the BBC.

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'I want to see if the neighbours recognise our Roger.'

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Can I show you these photographs?

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That's a photograph taken of Roger when he came into the hospital,

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this is him in the nursing home some time afterwards.

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-That's Roger, no question.

-Are you sure?

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-Oh, no question about it. No doubt.

-100%?

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I am 100% sure that is Roger.

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-He looks quite well there.

-He does. He looks real good, actually.

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-So, you are certain that that's him?

-Oh, yes.

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So, the unknown man has finally been identified.

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Roger was a nurse and has a wife and two children.

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But how did he end up in England?

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Another neighbour tells us that Roger couldn't have got there alone.

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Could you imagine that he got on a jet plane and travelled to

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England of his own accord?

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Well, last time I saw him, he was in no condition to travel anywhere.

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He was, he was sick.

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I think he... They said Alzheimer's Or something along those lines.

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And it was last summer.

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And he didn't look like he could be travelling anywhere.

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Everybody we talk to around here, speaks fondly of Roger.

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I'd see him come and go from work. He would wear white scrubs.

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So, I knew he was a nurse.

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He just seemed like a very wonderful, kind family man.

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And I just had a very good feeling around him.

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But the more we learn, the darker this story becomes.

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Trouble and illness have haunted Roger's family.

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While he has dementia, his wife, Mary Jo, is also unwell.

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Their son, Kevin, acted as their carer in recent years.

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But not so long ago, he wasn't welcome at the family home.

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Their relationship has always been kind of...

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..volatile, if you want to call it. Kevin...

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You could hear him at all different hours of the night just...

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pounding on their door, trying to get in,

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screaming and yelling at them - profanities.

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We worried for their safety.

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In 2014, the Curry family home burned down in the middle of the night.

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No-one was at home at the time, but Roger and his wife had to move out.

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The neighbours didn't see Roger again for nine months.

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He was standing right out in the front yard here.

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But behind that fence?

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Oh, yeah, behind the fence and the gate was locked.

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Oh, yeah, and then he walked back to the back.

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And we were calling for him, but he wouldn't come out.

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He just wasn't responding to us.

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And then we started to get concerned because, you know...

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We thought he was in the alone.

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So I went over there and stepped over...

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I was able to step over on that side, then go to the back to see,

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and that's when I saw Mary Jo too.

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-Two of them were in the back?

-Yep.

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Mary Jo was sleeping and Roger was wandering.

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Are you talking about Mary Jo sleeping outside?

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Oh, yes, on the patio. She was in a sleeping bag.

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Two elderly people with chronic illness,

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were left camping in the yard of a burnt-out house.

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Their son Kevin, had been bringing them food and

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he was suspected of locking them in behind the gate.

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The emergency services were called, and were shocked by what they found.

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They were talking together and they said they were here

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the night the house burnt down. And...he was...

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They were both in tears.

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There were several of them, but the ones I spoke to...

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He was in tears, I mean, this is a big, burly, you know,

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macho man, in tears, saying, "Who does this

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"to their parents?"

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Roger's wife told the police it was her idea, and nobody was prosecuted.

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Roger and his wife were locked in the yard just three months

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before he turned up lost in England. It looks suspicious.

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I want to talk to their son... But Kevin isn't returning my calls.

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It seems that Kevin is a complicated character.

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I've done a bit of digging and found that he has a criminal record.

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And I've also found that...

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a restraining order was taken against him 17 years ago...

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by his father.

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So, could Kevin be to blame for what happened to his dad?

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In America, old people are sometimes deserted

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because of the medical bills. It's known as "granny dumping".

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Did Kevin dump his father in England?

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He told me that he virtually exhausted all avenues trying

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to find a place to put him.

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And because, he said, Roger tended to act out physically, that a lot

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of places would not take him because he acted out physically, a lot.

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Our story is about to take another unexpected turn.

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My theory is that he got... Kevin...

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got overwhelmed by trying to find him help here, and couldn't find

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that help...

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'As we're talking, a car pulls up behind me.' Who's that there?

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-I believe that's Kevin.

-Is that Kevin there now?

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I'm pretty sure it is and he's looking right at me

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and he has taken off.

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That's... Mary Jo in the passenger seat.

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-That's his mum in the passenger seat?

-Yep.

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She didn't look good at all.

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That was his mum. Boy, he read that, didn't he? It really irritates me.

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I want to believe in people.

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HE LAUGHS

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All right.

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I'm calling for Kevin.

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Kevin, my name is Darragh Macintyre, I'm with the BBC. I just think...

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..we need to speak about your dad.

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And I'm just hoping that you may be able to chat to me

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and maybe help explain how...

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..your dad ended up in... in England.

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Kevin doesn't call me back and he doesn't respond to a letter, either.

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So I go to see Roger's daughter, Jeanette, instead.

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She doesn't want to be filmed but she tells me

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that she hasn't seen her dad in years.

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Just spent the best part of three hours talking to the...

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the daughter of Roger Curry, that's Jeanette.

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And well, firstly, she didn't have a clue about her dad ending up in...

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in England, and Hereford.

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She clearly thinks her brother Kevin is behind the transport of

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her dad across the Atlantic to England.

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We showed her the footage, we showed her...

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her dad in the care home.

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Showed her her dad talking to the staff and...

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walking about and eating his chocolate muffins and...

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she got quite emotional. She got quite emotional.

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But, you know what,

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her biggest concern was that he might be shipped out of...

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out of England and back here.

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As far as she is concerned, he's happy. And he's safe.

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Hello, Sergeant Bennett? Darragh Macintyre phoning...

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'It's time to let the police know that we have solved the

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'mystery of the unknown man.'

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We have, in fact, tracked down Roger Curry.

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And I can confirm that he is actually from

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a town called Whittier, outside of Los Angeles.

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I'll try and call you back later, bye-bye.

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Two days later, a man is arrested in England.

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American social services and the FBI join the investigation.

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Then in July, Roger Curry is taken from the nursing home where

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he's been staying for eight months...

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..and quietly flown back to the US.

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Three weeks ago, I went back to California. I want to find Kevin.

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I've been trying to talk to him for months.

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But he's a hard man to catch.

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'And when I finally see him at the family home, he disappears again.'

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Hello, Kevin.

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Darragh Macintyre from the BBC, Kevin, Kevin...

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I've been trying to contact you for a while, Kevin.

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I've written to you, I've phoned you.

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Kevin, did you dump your father in England?

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Kevin?

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KEVIN:

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Fair enough, Kevin.

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Kevin then agrees to answer questions, but not on camera.

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Well, I finally got to speak to Kevin.

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He did have something to say, but it didn't make an awful lot of sense.

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He says that he had nothing to do, whatsoever,

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with the abandonment of his father in England.

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He said his father became ill when they were visiting England on

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holiday, and that he asked a friend to take him to hospital.

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His account simply doesn't add up.

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'Why did he leave his dad in England for eight months?

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'And why won't he show his face?'

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Kevin, are you prepared to speak to me? On the record?

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We're going to be here for a couple of days, so we're happy to do it.

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At your convenience, properly, a sit-down interview.

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Kevin, can I tell you, you look incredibly sinister right now.

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KEVIN:

7:23:567:23:58

We're not stalking you, and we're not harassing you.

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And I left when you asked me to leave.

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Kevin, I put nothing in your mailbox other than a letter,

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in fact, I put two letters in your mailbox.

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Kevin, I did not go through your mail.

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Kevin, you're looking incredibly sinister,

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take your mask off and speak properly.

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Kevin, will you speak to us properly?

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Without your mask on? That's him going now.

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It's the strangest of getaways.

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Kevin drives off really slowly, he can't see where he's going.

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Well, that was extraordinary.

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Kevin throwing out all sorts of accusations, but importantly,

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crucially, not prepared to properly account for how his

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76-year-old dad, very ill with dementia,

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ended up abandoned in Britain.

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So, where is Roger now? The authorities won't tell me.

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But I managed to find his new nursing home

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and I walked straight in without anyone asking who I am.

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I'm shocked by how Roger looks.

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The man I met here is unshaven, his hair looks dirty, maybe matted,

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he's wearing tracksuit bottoms,

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he's got runners with the laces untied...

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He's got a scar on the top of his head and the wound is taking

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its time to heal.

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The intimate level of care,

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the type of care he was getting at Credenhill,

7:26:007:26:02

I don't he is getting here.

7:26:027:26:03

I'm sure his basic needs are met,

7:26:037:26:05

but he's even thinner than I remember him.

7:26:057:26:08

He is diminished.

7:26:097:26:11

'Roger's neighbours haven't been told where he is.'

7:26:197:26:23

-I found Roger yesterday.

-Oh, you did?

7:26:247:26:28

Yeah, I did, yeah.

7:26:287:26:30

And... Do you remember the photograph I showed you of Roger?

7:26:307:26:33

Yeah, he was still a handsome man, you know. Yeah.

7:26:337:26:37

He still looked, you know, like Roger.

7:26:377:26:40

I saw him yesterday...in a care home not very far from here.

7:26:417:26:44

When I went into the home, I nearly didn't recognise him. He is...

7:26:457:26:49

He is a different man, almost.

7:26:507:26:52

He had a wound on his head which hadn't healed.

7:26:537:26:56

He wasn't shaven, his hair looked like it hadn't been washed.

7:26:587:27:02

It makes really sad. He's, um...

7:27:027:27:05

And to think, you know...

7:27:077:27:10

I'm hoping my family has a little bit more compassion than that

7:27:107:27:15

they are doing with him.

7:27:157:27:17

I wonder whether...identifying Roger, in fact,

7:27:187:27:22

has done him any good at all?

7:27:227:27:23

Right. Right. He'd still be in England, being taken care of.

7:27:237:27:28

Things do look better on a second visit to the nursing home.

7:27:337:27:37

Roger has been cleaned up.

7:27:377:27:38

But again, I walk in unchallenged,

7:27:407:27:43

and there doesn't seem to be anything

7:27:437:27:45

to protect Roger from wandering off.

7:27:457:27:47

Roger's future is now being decided by the American courts.

7:27:557:28:00

The Los Angeles authorities have taken control of his care.

7:28:007:28:04

But today, Kevin and his mum are challenging that.

7:28:067:28:09

Stop harassing me. Stop stalking me.

7:28:137:28:16

The court makes no final decision.

7:28:187:28:20

But the legal papers show that the authorities blame Kevin and

7:28:227:28:25

his mother for what happened to Roger.

7:28:257:28:28

This is what the Los Angeles authorities say happened...

7:28:307:28:34

In late 2015, Roger Curry was taken surreptitiously to

7:28:347:28:38

England by his wife and son, and then he was abandoned.

7:28:387:28:42

An elderly and helpless man was dumped in Britain.

7:28:457:28:50

And then his wife and son went for a holiday in Europe.

7:28:507:28:54

We have uncovered the truth about Roger Curry.

7:28:577:29:01

But this wasn't the ending that any of us wanted or expected.

7:29:037:29:07

Roger is still facing a very uncertain future...

7:29:107:29:13

..victim of a family who wanted him to disappear.

7:29:157:29:19

The police and social services were baffled when an elderly man with an American accent was found lost on the streets of Hereford. He didn't know who he was or have any ID, and he was dressed from head to toe in brand new clothes from Tesco. He was in a nursing home before Panorama took up his case. Reporter Darragh Macintyre follows the clues to America and unravels the mystery of the unknown man - before confronting the person responsible for bringing him to Britain.