News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 8th January 2014

The mystery man who went to Ireland & Sligo to eventually disappear

   

‘Peter Bergmann’ went to great lengths to erase all proof of his existence before mysteriously dying on a Sligo beach.

In June 2009, a man with grey hair and a leather jacket arrived in County Sligo by bus with the intention of disappearing without a single trace.

Where he came from or what he hoped to achieve is a mystery – what we do know is that he went to tremendous lengths to erase all proof of his existence before dying on a beach at Rosses Point, Co. Sligo. His only footprints are recorded in the haunting CCTV footage from cameras in and around Sligo City Hotel, where he had checked in for three nights under the name “Peter Bergmann.”

His body was found on the beach at dawn on the morning of June 16, 2009. He wasn’t carrying any form of identification – even the labels on his clothes were all cut off. An investigation was launched to establish his identity, but all it revealed was the seemingly painstaking measures the man took to disappear anonymously.

A recent short film “The Last Days of Peter Bergmann” paints a picture of this haunting mystery through the CCTV footage of the man and interviews with locals who saw him during his last days, which he spent entirely alone.

The award-winning documentary, directed by Ciaran Cassidy, produced by Morgan Bushe and edited by John Murphy, tracks Bergmann’s first known appearance in Ireland as the moment he boarded a bus in Derry’s bus terminal, where he was quite explicit about the fact that he wanted to go to Sligo.

“All that we are really left with is his visit to Sligo. We can’t put him anywhere else in the world,” an investigator said.

Each morning for three days the man left his hotel with a purple plastic bag to return empty handed; it is clear now that he had been disposing of his clothing and possessions little by little, none of which were ever found during the detailed investigation after his death.

Investigators believe that his scant appearances on CCTV cameras indicate he had carefully planned out his daily routes to avoid detection.

“CCTV cameras are highly visible all over Sligo town. It’s quite likely he would have identified all of their locations. If he didn’t, we would’ve picked up where he was disposing of the clothing.

“So whilst he had no difficulty with people seeing him on the CCTV and his movements, he certainly went to great lengths to ensure that the property he disposed of was never found, because that is not identifiable anywhere on any of the CCTV,” the investigator said.

After his death it became clear that there was no such person as Peter Bergmann who fit his description or age anywhere in Europe, America or South America. The address in Vienna, Austria that he used for checking into the hotel turned out to be a vacant lot.

“We [did] extensive searches throughout Sligo, be it rubbish bins, public areas, gardens of private properties, car parks; we even searched the local dump in the hope that we might have been able to find some of his property that would help us to identify who he actually was.”

On his second day in Sligo, the man had purchased eight 82-cent stamps and airmail stickers from the post office. It was never established where the letters were sent to or when, but it was likely that the man was corresponding with someone, somewhere.

Also unclear is why he chose Ireland of all places, and Sligo specifically, as the best place to attempt to vanish without a trace.

On the day before his body was found, Bergmann had asked a taxi driver to take him to the quietest beach in Sligo for a swim, and the driver took him to Rosses Point.

“He got out and had a look at the area and seemed contented. And got back into the taxi and returned back into Sligo itself. He didn’t really communicate with people. He didn’t mix with people.”

Bergmann had found the place where he wanted to die; on the next day, after arranging a late checkout with the hotel, he bought a one-way ticket to Rosses Point.

Bergmann had left the hotel with three bags, including a purple plastic one, and arrived at the bus station with only two. There he bought a cappuccino and a sandwich.

Though he hadn’t spoken to anyone on the beach, a couple of people he’d crossed paths with have spoken in the documentary about their impressions of Peter Bergmann – that he definitely stood out in his black, professional clothing, and that he was pacing around, seemingly in another world.

“He looked almost out of place and out of time,” one Sligo woman recalled.

“He had his trousers rolled up to his knees. And he was walking parallel to the water with his bare feet, he was ankle deep in the water, and he just seemed to be kind of stooped with his hands behind his back, as if he was in another world.

“He was highlighted by virtue of the fact that he was walking across the sunbeam parallel to the beach, but right through his beam of sunlight – and it was amazing because when he actually walked into the light of the sunbeam, he turned to gold as well,” another couple recalled.

A young couple passed him and said hello at 10:30 pm that night and he responded with a nod of his head.

At the crack of dawn on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, a man and his son who’d been training for a triathlon were walking along the beach when they found Bergmann’s lifeless body on the shore. At first they thought it was a mannequin.

“I said to Brian will you join me in saying the Lord’s Prayer, which he did, and we said the little prayer and brought a little bit of serenity or calmness to the situation,” the father said, before they called the Gardai (police).

An investigator said, “The clothing that was on the deceased body – he had removed each individual label from those clothes. It just shows the level of planning, the level of detail he had gone into to ensure that he was never identified,”

“We were obviously getting a picture at that stage that this man had meticulously planned his final days, his final act. And the lengths that he went to were just unbelievable.”

The autopsy showed no evidence of foul play or saltwater drowning.

What the medical examination did find, however, was that the man had extensive cancer of the prostate and bone tumors, as well as evidence of previous heart attacks.

The toxicology report showed no evidence of painkillers either, not even aspirin.

“The truth is we may never know what actually happened in those last few minutes and what he was hoping to achieve. But we can say he was there.”

Detailed investigations were carried out for months: “We explored every conceivable option that was valuable to us. We used the media both in mainland Europe, nationally and internationally, we had secured his DNA, his fingerprints, and those were circulated to all police forces. He did not feature in any jurisdiction.’

Investigators think Bergmann may have believed that his body would be washed out to sea and never found.

“The Last Days of Peter Bergmann” was an official selection at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and won Best Documentary Short Film at the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival.

Tesco announces price war as part of a fight back

 

The Tesco Company is closing 43 unprofitable stores across UK as it battles with discounters and announces price war

TESCO has announced better Christmas sales than expected, with overall turnover over the holiday period down just 0.3% compared with the year before.

But the supermarket giant said that it will be closing 43 unprofitable stores across the UK as well as its headquarters with more details on its plans for Ireland and Europe expected later today.

It also announced a price war cutting the cost of over 1,000 of its products in stores.

Shares in Tesco opened up over 5% this morning on news of the fight-back and overhaul at the struggling retailer that had a terrible year in 2014 including an accounting scandal and series of profit warnings.

Like-for-like Christmas sales were down 5.5% in Ireland.

A spokesperson said there were no plans for store closures here at the moment.

“We currently have no specific plans to make changes to our head office in the Republic of Ireland but…..we always we keep our structure and head count levels under review to ensure we’re operating efficiently and able to meet the needs of our customers.

“Also we have no plans to close any stores in the Republic of Ireland,” she said.

The chain  has made 350 night staff redundant through a voluntary scheme as part of plans to reorganise shelf stacking in some of its Irish outlets.

The company has said that the redundancies followed a plan to “improve customer service” and have more workers on the shop floor during the day.

At present, Tesco employs around 15,000 people in Ireland. Of the 350 redundancies, 260 will be backfilled with shelf packing staff in the coming months who will work during the day. Approximately 90 positions will not be replaced.

In addition, around 400 suppliers are awaiting news of the company’s plans for Ireland.

Company boss Dave Lewis said Tesco was “seeing the benefits of listening to our customers”.

The company also announced today that it is selling its entertainment service Blinkbox and Tesco Broadband to TalkTalk.

New antibiotic teixobactin drug a ‘game changer’

  

The new drug teixobactin has the ability to kill many types of harmful bacteria

A turning point in the war against superbugs may have been reached with the discovery of a potent new antibiotic that shows no sign of inducing drug resistance.

The drug, named teixobactin, was isolated from soil bacteria using a revolutionary technique that may in future yield a rich harvest of previously hidden antibiotic compounds.

  It has the ability to kill many types of harmful bacteria, including the superbug MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), by breaking down their cell walls.

Because it targets fatty molecules in the cell wall instead of proteins it is also much less likely than most antibiotics to induce microbial resistance.

In tests, scientists found no evidence of bugs evolving ways to cheat death by teixobactin, which proved harmless to mammalian cells.

British experts hailed the research as a “game changer” and “very exciting”.

Professor Kim Lewis, from Northeastern University in Boston, who led the US team, said: ” No resistance normally means that we discovere d a new detergent, which is a molecule that will destroy the membrane of the bacterial cell but also will destroy the membranes of our cells, so these are toxic compounds.

“That was my first reaction; that we found another boring molecule. But then in parallel we tested that compound against mammalian cells, and found it was not toxic against mammalian cells.

“So we have something very intriguing. Here is a new molecule that hits bacterial cells, does not hit mammalian cells, and there’s no resistance .. That was unique and very exciting.”

Teixobactin is effective against some microbes – known as “gram positive” bacteria – and not others. But the organisms vulnerable to it include some very nasty examples, such as MRSA, the TB bug mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Clostridium difficile (C. diff).

The drug will not work against “gram negative” bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E.coli) which have a kind of molecular armour plating protecting their cell membranes. Gram negative bacteria pose one of the greatest antibiotic resistance challenges.

However the research goes much further than identifying one promising new drug. It potentially opens the door to further discoveries that could boost the world’s antibiotic arsenal and turn the tide against the superbugs.

Most antibiotics are derived from soil bacteria and fungi, which use them as weapons in an on-going battle for survival with other micro-organisms. But many remain hidden from science, because 99% of the simple life forms producing them refuse to grow in laboratory Petri dishes. This makes them difficult to study and screen for new products.

Prof Lewis and his team tried a new tack by growing bacteria in the place they know best, the soil. Diluted soil samples containing the bugs were placed in culture wells sandwiched between two semi-permeable membranes and buried in earth.

Speaking on a podcast issued by the journal Nature, which published the research, the professor said: “Essentially we trick them because .. they think it’s their natural environment and pretty much everything grows.

“Now we can isolate them, study them, and access antibiotics if they are producing them.”

Using this technique, the scientists obtained 50,000 isolates from 10,000 soil bacteria strains, from which they identified 25 new antibiotics including teixobactin.

In mice, the drug proved highly effective against MRSA and Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes major infections of the lungs and blood poisoning.

The drug works in a similar way to the “last resort” antibiotic vancomycin, discovered in 1953, which also breaks down the cell walls of gram positive bacteria.

It took almost 40 years for bacteria to start becoming resistant to vancomycin. Because of its mode of action, which involves binding to multiple molecular targets, scientists believe it will take even longer for genetic resistance to teixobactin to emerge.

Last year the World Health Organisation warned that a “post-antibiotic” era was rapidly approaching in which common infections can no longer be tackled with tried and trusted drugs, turning the clock back to a time when even a slight cut or graze might prove fatal.

The Government’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies has said antibiotic resistance poses a “catastrophic threat” on a par with terrorism and climate change.

Commenting on the research, microbiologist Professor Laura Piddock, from the University of Birmingham, said: “The screening tool developed by these researchers could be a game changer for discovering new antibiotics as it allows compounds to be isolated from soil producing micro-organisms that do not grow under normal laboratory conditions.

“If teixobactin can be formulated into a new drug for patients, it could be used to treat infections such as tuberculosis or those caused by MRSA.”

Infectious disease expert Professor Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “Any report of a new antibiotic is auspicious, but what most excites me about the paper by Lewis et al. is the tantalising prospect that this discovery is just the tip of the iceberg ..

“It may be that we will find more, perhaps many more, antibiotics using these latest techniques. We should certainly be trying – the antibiotic pipeline has been drying up for many years now. We need to open it up again, and develop alternatives to antibiotics at the same time, if we are to avert a public health disaster.”

Professor Roger Pickup, associate dean of research at the University of Lancaster, said: “This is a very exciting development. This may lead to the discovery of more unique antibiotics that can come on line and replace, or work in tandem, with current therapies that fight infection, particularly those caused by bacteria currently resistant to the spectrum of antibiotics available to us at present.”

Professor Neil Woodford, head of Public Health England’s Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Association Infections Reference Unit, said: “The rise in antibiotic resistance is a threat to modern healthcare as we know it so this discovery could potentially help to bridge the ever increasing gap between infections and the medicines we have available to treat them.

“Taking any potential antibacterial compound from discovery to successful licensing is a long, costly and difficult process. However it is one that needs to be encouraged while we tackle other elements that contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance and seek to preserve the antibiotics we do have.”

The if’s and but’s of body fat

  

There’s so much negativity surrounding body fat, with reports urging people to lose weight to prevent the risk of heart disease and other health issues.

But if you’re naturally curvy then you needn’t worry, as that little bit extra may have big benefits.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, previously found that the fat cells under the skin, known as adipocytes, protect the body from infection by encouraging the growth of new immune cells. In return, these cells fight off harmful bacteria.

There are other reasons why a bit of body fat can be a bonus though. It may sound like a cliché but it does in fact keep you warm, which is much needed when the weather turns chilly – but this only refers to brown fat, the ‘good’ type.

On top of this, it will enable all the nutrients your body needs to be transported easily.

“We know that low body fat negatively affects the delivery of vitamins to your organs and throughout your body,” personal trainer Cathy Leman tells shape.com.

Vitamins like E and A are some that Cathy is referring to, as they are extremely fat-soluble. Once broken down they will remain in the fatty tissue, ready to keep you at your best.

For those of you who have a low libido, it could be because your body fat percentage isn’t high enough – leading to a low sex drive. The same goes for excess body fat, with people feeling insecure and unwilling to be intimate.

If you have a good amount of fat you have nothing to worry about. A recommended number, discovered by the American College of Sports Medicine, is between 20 and 32 per cent for women – but it all comes down to overall health as well. For men, the average body fat should be between around 16 and 30 per cent, and obviously those who tip into high numbers run the risks of health problems linked to obesity.

And if, as a female, you have a high sex drive, you’ll be pleased to hear a good amount of body fat aids with fertility. Cathy explains that fat is a good influence on the entire reproductive system, from periods to pregnancy. When the number drops, you could suffer irregularities in your menstrual cycle, such as women who are underweight starting their periods later or not having any at all.

If you think you’re in this position, ask your doctor for advice on how to put on weight in a healthy and natural way. Or if you’re already a good size and are still struggling, there could be something else playing tricks on your body

Young scientists hit their sporting targets by thinking outside the box

 

From seaweed golf tees to boots for hurling the Young Scientists Exhibition is a vision of the future

  Zoe Mangan, Padraic Hartigan and Ross Fitzgerald from Salesian Secondary College, Limerick with their project The Silent Whistle a wearable device to help sports players with hearing impairments acknowledge the whistle of a referee during a match or training at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2015.

To the RDS, to see the future. Turns out the future has far, far more going for it than the slack-jawed gawpers who loll up and down the aisles asking the future to show its work. It is earnest and pimple-faced and pristine of uniform and gabby as anything once you get it talking. It is the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition and it would do any heart good to walk around it.

There exists in this hall a multitude of things you didn’t know you needed but now that you think of it make perfect sense. An Tionchar – a purpose-designed boot for hurlers and camogie players, the vast majority of whom wear boots created for and used by soccer players. The Brap – a boxer’s handwrap that doubles as a wrist support device, which both helps prevent injury and aids rehabilitation. The Green Tee – a biodegradable golf tee made out of seaweed.

Seaweed? Yes, seaweed. The brain child of Jake Killeen andBen Healy from Castleknock College in Dublin, the Green Tee is an attempt to go some way to saving the estimated 140,000 trees that are chopped down worldwide each year to make wooden golf tees. The seaweed is dried out and compacted and turned into a tee on a lathe.

Biodegradable

“You carry it around in a container of water in your golf bag,” says Killeen. “The water hydrates it so that it keeps it shape, stays strong and holds the ball. Once you’ve hit your shot, you put it back into the container. But if you walk off without it, it’s okay because it’s biodegradable and it’s actually good for the soil. It acts as a fertiliser. Unlike the plastic ones that just get left there.

“It started with a project I did on golf tees where I found that 140,000 trees a year are cut down worldwide for making wooden tees. That’s just a waste. So we wanted to see what you could make golf tees out of that wouldn’t harm the environment and actually that could help it. Seaweed is a natural fertiliser so it’s perfect.”

Uniformity of choice

An Tionchar – The Impact as Gaeilge – is the work of Shiofra Ryan and Orlaith Plunkett from St Brendan’s Community School in Birr, Co Offaly. That hurling and soccer are entirely different sports is obvious to everyone’s eye.

Yet the sheer uniformity of choice in the boot section of every sports shop tells its own story too. Hurlers wear boots custom-made for a sport other than their own. At a time when ankle injuries make up 11 per cent of all hurling injuries, there should be a better way.

Ryan studied the specific movements made by Richie Hogan and Steven Gerrard over a 40-minute period. Hogan made four times as many jumps and had three times as many changes of direction. Gerrard had twice as many straight-line runs.

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