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Dead stowaway's identity remains a mystery

April 26, 2013 at 12:28 AM   |   Comments

LONDON, April 26 (UPI) -- Investigators say they have been unable to establish the identity of a man who may have fallen from the wheelwell of a plane as it approached a London airport.

The man had a cellphone and investigators were able to use it to track a former employer, an inquest heard Thursday. The employer, a Swiss woman, said she knew the man as Jose Matada and said he came from Mozambique and worked for her in South Africa, The Guardian reported.

No relatives or friends responded to appeals in Mozambique for information about the man, witnesses told the inquiry. The Mozambique government could not confirm the man was a citizen.

The former employer knew only what Matada had told her about himself.

What is known is that the body was found Sept. 9, 2012, in East Sheen, a suburb near Heathrow International Airport. A British Airways plane from Luanda, Angola, had passed over a few minutes earlier, lowering its undercarriage as it approached for a landing.

While many desperate immigrants try to hide in the wheelwells of planes, few survive the trip. The Guardian said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has reported about 75 percent die in transit or fall and many of the survivors lose limbs to frostbite.

The man had sent his former employer, who had returned to Switzerland, a text message talking of coming to Europe for a "better life," a witness said. When he died he had a pound coin and some Botswanan currency in his pocket.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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