Metropolitan Police via AP
This e-fit provided by the London Metropolitan Police shows a computer-based face of a man authorities police are trying to identify after his body was found in west London.
LONDON — Police in Britain have appealed for help establishing the identity of a man whose body apparently fell from a plane in the sky and crashed onto a west London sidewalk.
A London police spokesman, who was not authorized to speak on the record because of force policy, told The Associated Press on Sunday that police have released an "e-fit" image of the man's face and a photo of a tattoo on his left arm. The unusual tattoo showed the letters "Z" and "G."
The mystery began in September when residents of a suburban street in Mortlake woke up on a quiet Sunday morning to find the crumpled body of a black man on the sidewalk of Portman Avenue, near a convenience store, an upscale lingerie shop and a storefront offering Chinese medical cures.
Looking for clues to identity
Detectives believed at first the man was a murder victim and cordoned off the area. Within a day, however, police concluded the man — probably already dead — had fallen to the ground when a jet passing overhead lowered its landing gear as it neared the runway at nearby Heathrow Airport.
The apparent stowaway had no identification papers — just some currency from Angola, leading police to surmise that he was from that African country, especially as inquiries showed that a plane from Angola was beginning its descent into Heathrow at about that time.
The macabre explanation made perfect sense to residents, who are able to see planes lower their landing gears as they pass overhead, said Catherine Lambert, who lives a few doors down from the spot where the man landed.
"You could see him, his body was contorted," she said. "It was a beautiful blue day, really sunny, but we had to keep the children inside. I didn't want the children to see, and to have to explain to them and put fear into them every time a plane goes over."
A post mortem conducted two days after the body landed listed the cause of death as "multiple injuries."
Lambert, 41, said there is lingering sadness, since the man has not been identified and there has been no way to tell his family he is gone.
"I felt, what was he running away from? What made him think he could he could? And how will his family ever know? He's a lost soul now; his father and mother are probably waiting for him to make contact," she said.
Police also said attempts to identify the man with the help of Angolan authorities had been unsuccessful. They stressed there is only "circumstantial" evidence linking the stowaway to that country.
In a statement, police said the man is believed to be an African of slight build between the ages of 20 and 30. He was wearing jeans, white sneakers and a gray sweatshirt when he was found on Sept. 9, police said.
Although firm figures are not available, in recent years there has been a rise in the number of stowaways trying to get to Western Europe by hiding in the undercarriages of passenger planes.
Police said the body is being held for possible repatriation in case the man's identity is established.