Malmö mystery man 'sounds Dutch': linguist

Paul O'Mahony
Paul O'Mahony - [email protected]
Malmö mystery man 'sounds Dutch': linguist

A man in southern Sweden who has called on the public to help him rediscover his identity probably has either Dutch or Flemish as his native language, a prominent forensic linguist has told The Local.


On Wednesday night the mystery man appeared on Swedish television to pose the question: "Who am I?".

The man, who woke up in a Malmö hospital bed four weeks ago, speaks very good English but has no idea why he is in Sweden.

"His word order is extremely good; I would say he has near native speaker abilities," UK-based forensic linguist John Olsson told The Local.

"He has certainly spent a lot of time with native English speakers, and I would say in the UK rather than America. Some of the intonation suggests that he has spent time in the Midlands or the North of England."

Having viewed scenes from TV3's crime and missing persons show Efterlyst ('Wanted'), Olsson set about pinpointing the probable native language of the unidentified man.

"He's definitely not a Romance speaker. We can also rule out Afrikaans and the Slavic languages. I would say he probably speaks Dutch or Flemish as his first language," Olsson said.

Olsson, who heads up the UK-based Forensic Linguistics Institute, has been called on for his expert linguistic analysis by top level courts in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.

Renowned UK linguist David Crystal said he agreed with Olsson's assessment that the man was most likely a Dutch or Flemish speaker.

"He's not a native speaker of English. And it's definitely a Germanic accent of some sort," Crystal told The Local.

Referring to himself as Sami Hussein, the man currently lives in a hotel often used by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) and located in Arlöv outside of Malmö.

He was found four weeks ago outside the Malmö police station, at which point he was taken to hospital for treatment of a mild stroke.

The mystery man's plight has prompted the Swedish public to put on its collective thinking cap, with tips streaming in to police in Malmö after Wednesday night's edition of Efterlyst.

But as of yet none of the leads have led to a concrete identification.

"I'd say we've had roughly fifty tips, which have led us off in a lot of different directions," Detective Inspector Anders Lindskog told The Local.

"It's been a hard day's work, with some people saying he's from the United States, others from South America, along with plenty of other places" he said.

At least one tipster said the man was most likely from the Netherlands, although Lindskog admitted the police had not consulted with a linguistic expert on the matter.

"Sami" thinks he was born on March 3rd, 1949, but there is no record of anyone matching his description in either the police’s or Migration Board’s databases.

When he was found, he was wearing a black and white shirt and a dark red jacket.


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