On the morning of the Tuesday, June 16th 2009 the body of an unidentified male was discovered on Rosses Point beach. He was wearing a pair of swimming trunks under his underpants with a navy t-shirt tucked into them. The rest of his clothes were folded nearby but there was no sign of a wallet or any forms of identification.
It was discovered that the body belonged to a man who had been staying at the Sligo City Hotel under the name ‘Peter Bergmann’. CCTV first captured Bergmann on Friday, 12th June boarding a bus travelling from the Ulster Bus Depot in Derry to the Sligo bus station two hours away. When he arrived he took a taxi to the Sligo City Hotel where he booked a room for three nights. The taxi driver initially brought him to another guest house which did not have availability. He gave his address as ‘Ainstettersn 15, Wien 4472, Vienna, Austria’ which later turned out to be made up. He had a black shoulder bag and a black holdall with him at that time.
Bergmann stood at 5’10” and was of slender build. He had blue eyes and appeared to be in his late 50s or 60s. He was described as having a thick German accent.
On Saturday, 16th June, Bergmann was seen leaving the hotel to purchase eight 82 cent stamps and airmail stickers from the General Post Office. The next day he caught a taxi and asked for recommendations for a quiet beach where he could swim. The taxi driver brought him to Rosses Point, as well as informing him that buses run hourly to the beach, before returning him to the bus station in Sligo.
When Bergmann checked out of the hotel next day he walked along Wine Street before stopping at Quayside Shopping Centre for a few minutes. He then continued to Sligo bus station where he ordered a drink and sandwich. On leaving the hotel he had three bags with him; the two bags he had on arrival and the purple bag he was seen with on CCTV. By the time he arrived at the bus station the black holdall was missing. According to witnesses, while eating he looked at or wrote on a piece of paper from his pocket before tearing the paper in half and disposing of it. Around 2pm he boarded a bus for Rosses Point and multiple people later saw him on the beach with his bag over his shoulder.
The last sighting of Bergmann was at 11.50pm when a woman saw him walking along the water’s edge with a plastic bag in his hand. His body was found the next morning. Following the discovery of Bergmann’s body, Gardai started an investigation into his death. During this investigation they discovered that Bergmann left the Sligo City Hotel multiple times with a purple plastic bag which looked to be full of something. Each time he returned the bag was out of sight. It’s theorised that Bergmann was disposing of his belongings around Sligo but no evidence of this was ever captured on CCTV.
Despite being found washed up on Rosses Point, Bergmann’s autopsy found that he actually died of a heart attack. It was also found that he had terminal prostate cancer which has spread to his bones, chest and lungs and would have left in considerable pain. Despite this no drugs were found in his system, although a standard toxicology report does not test for banned substances. There was evidence of previous heart attacks and one of his kidneys had been removed.
I think it is obvious that Bergmann killed himself, most likely in response to his impending death from terminal cancer. However there are still numerous questions outstanding regarding his death.
The thing that intrigues me most is his purchase of eight 82 cent stamps. At the time of his death an 82 cent stamp was the price to send a letter to Europe. Did his family and friends know of his plan to take his own life and did he write to them to let them know where he would end up? Is this why no one has ever reported him missing or come to claim his body? If this is the case, it still makes me wonder why he went to such great lengths to conceal his identity.
When Bergmann’s body was discovered the labels had been cut from clothes, although some brand names remained. A couple of items were from C&A, a store which is predominantly located in Germany and Austria. There is also the evidence that he was meticulously disposing of his personal belongings around Sligo. Although he was captured leaving the hotel with items multiple times, he was never once seen actually disposing of anything. Was this intentional or pure luck?
Despite the attention to detail given to concealing his identity and disposing of his belongings, it also seems like Bergmann didn’t have a fully formed plan when he arrived in Sligo. He arrived with no accommodation booked and the two locations he was brought to by taxi were within walking distance of the bus station. He also asked for recommendations for quiet beaches as if he had done no research in advance.
At times it seemed like he wanted to leave a trail, like getting a taxi to accommodations which he could have walked to. He also greeted numerous people while walking on Rosses Point the evening before he died. Was this intentional to ensure people remembered him or did he think that he concealed his identity enough that he had nothing to lose?
Officially, hotel staff should have requested ID when Bergmann checked in to the hotel, this was not done. What would he have done in this situation? Did he have a fake ID ready in case he was asked to produce it?
Another infuriating mystery is whether it was pure coincidence that Bergmann suffered a heart attack while swimming at Rosses Point or whether he ingested something to cause this. Was his original plan to swim out to sea and drown, only for the heart attack to take him first?
I also wonder how he arrived in Ireland in the first place. There is no evidence of any Peter Bergmann on any incoming passenger manifests so it’s unclear how, or when, he arrived here.
There’s also the question as to why he picked Ireland as his final destination. Did he have some link to the country or was it just a completely random pick?
10 years have passed since Bergmann’s passing so it seems unlikely that any of these questions will be answered easily. Hopefully someone is looking for him and will be able to get the closure they deserve eventually.