The port town Sligo is tucked away in the northwest corner of Ireland facing out towards the cold North Atlantic Ocean. A historic city founded in 1603, tourists come from all over the world for the town’s stunning costal views, its celebration of traditional Irish music, and to catch a Sligo Rovers football game. And then there is the one man who came here to die.
On June 12, 2009, a man calling himself Peter Bergmann traveled to Sligo where he checked in at the Sligo City Hotel less than a block from the water. He spoke with a heavy German accent and interacted very little with the hotel staff and guests during his stay. Security cameras captured his coming and going, but didn’t reveal much about why he was in Sligo. Then on the morning of June 16, Peter Bergmann’s naked body was discovered washed up on Rosses Point beach six miles from his hotel. Authorities quickly discovered that Peter Bergmann was not the man’s real name, and there were many other strange things about this mystery man.
The man calling himself Peter Bergmann was a thin gentleman in his late 50s or 60s with short grey hair standing about five-feet ten-inches. Those who spoke to him said that his German accent was thick, his eyes were blue, and he was well groomed. He was a well-dressed man, often seen walking around town in a black leather jacket and nice blue trousers. An investigation of his belongings revealed that his clothing came from “Clemens and August” a popular retail store with locations all over Continental Europe.
Using security camera footage, the police pieced together Bergmann’s movements. On Friday June 12th, he arrived at the Ulster Bus Depot in Derry, a city in Northern Ireland two and a half hours north of Sligo. He boarded a bus for Sligo carrying a black shoulder bag and a smaller carry-on. Two and a half hours later, he arrived at the Sligo Bus Station and took a taxi to the Sligo City Hotel. Checking in to the hotel under the false name Peter Bergmann, he gave his home address as Ainstettersn 15, 4472, Vienna, Austria. Police later determined this location to be an empty lot.
The next day Bergmann went to the post office where he purchased eight postage stamps and airmail stickers. Then on Sunday June 14th he left his hotel, got into a taxi, and asked the driver if he could recommend a quiet beach he could go swimming at. The driver took Bergmann to Rosses Point Beach. Later that day the same driver picked up Bergmann from the beach and drove him to the Sligo Bus Station. On Monday June 15, Bergmann checked out of his hotel room, he had his black shoulder bag, but he was also carrying a purple plastic bag and had a different carry-on bag then previously.
Walking out of the hotel, he traveled down Quay Street to the Quayside Shopping Center where he stood awkwardly in the doorway waiting for someone. After roughly ten-minutes of waiting, he left the Quayside Shopping center and walked towards the bus station. At the bus station, he ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and a cappuccino. While he ate, he pulled pieces of paper out of his pocket and looked them over. Afterwards he tore them up and threw them into a nearby trashcan. At 2:20pm, he boarded a bus for Rosses Point and was last seen walking along the beach. The following morning, his naked body was washed up on the beach.
An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was drowning and that no foul play was suspected. The coroner also noted that Bergmann’s teeth were well taken care of, indicating he was a man of some means. However, they also discovered that he was in very poor health. The investigation revealed that he was in the advanced stages of prostate cancer and bone tumors. He also showed signs of previous heart attacks and only had one kidney. The coroner also noted that his toxicology report came back clean, an odd finding considering that in his condition since he would have been in a considerable amount of constant pain.
Police continued to pour over security camera footage to learn more about Bergmann’s reason for being in Sligo. They noted in the footage that he left the hotel several times with a purple plastic bag then would return later without it. Police assumed that he was taking personal items that may have identified him and depositing them around town, then folding up the bag, and placing it back in his pocket. They also believe that this was also why he bought the stamps earlier- he was mailing other identifying items to unknown locations. Through watching the footage the quickly learned that Bergmann’s movements were very well planned out and that he was aware of security camera blind spots and used them to his advantage.
The case bares a striking resemblance to the Somerton Man Case in which a man’s unidentified body washed up on a South Australian beach sometime after World War II. Bergman’s case did not receive quite the notoriety as Somerton, although a 2013 documentary THE LAST DAYS OF PETER BERGMANN did attempt to shine some light on the case. There are also a few sites online dedicated to sharing theories about who Bergmann really was and what he was doing in his final days. But so far no one has been able to pinpoint his identity, what he was doing in Sligo, or how he died.