The elderly man at the bus station was in good health, with a fresh haircut, clean nails and new clothes from a British department store — but he had no idea who or where he was.
He had an American accent, but he was unable to tell authorities where he came from, who had brought him to Britain or how he had gotten to a bus station in Hereford, 150 miles northwest of London.
Two men who said they saw him sitting at the station flagged down a passing ambulance, according to court documents.
When pressed at a hospital, the elderly man uttered the name “Roger Curry.” But authorities weren’t sure if that was his name or some vaguely remembered acquaintance from his past, according to the BBC.
On that November morning in 2015, authorities thought they had encountered a man who had wandered away from a nearby nursing home. But after an investigation, they realized the man’s sudden appearance in England stemmed from something more sinister.
He was placed in a nursing home, where staff found his quiet, gentle demeanor endearing. He was trapped in his own world, but it appeared to be a peaceful one.
Outside the care facility, authorities scrambled for clues to his identity. They scoured closed-circuit cameras, contacted Interpol, even ran his DNA through databases. Nothing.
Ultimately, they made an appeal to the press, hoping the public could help crack the mystery.
It worked. A California woman who saw a BBC program on the man found a photo from the 1958 yearbook of Edmonds High School, north of Seattle. It showed a much younger version of the mystery man in England.
Finally, authorities had a name: Earl Roger Curry of Whittier, Calif., a married father of two adult children.
The mystery was solved, but the solution sparked more questions. Chief among them: Why hadn’t Curry’s family tried to find him?
That’s when investigators began to home in on the family turmoil that landed Curry at a bus station in England.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Curry had worked as a nurse with Kaiser Permanente. When he retired, he collected pension benefits from the company and Social Security benefits from the U.S. government, along with his veteran’s benefits.
But Curry had Alzheimer’s, according to court documents, and his declining mental state required around-the-clock care. His disease left him unable to focus on people talking to him, let alone make decisions about his health or finances.
A will that he took out in better days gave his wife durable power of attorney. But she was ailing, too. Court documents say she developed Parkinson’s disease. So Curry’s medical records also listed other responsible family members: his daughter, his wife's first cousin, his brother-in-law.
Not mentioned in any of the documents was Kevin Curry, the couple’s only son — and the one who ended up taking care of them.
Authorities are still trying to piece together what happened as Roger Curry’s mental faculties declined.
What is clear is that both he and his wife were at one point being taken care of by Kevin Curry, who neighbors say had an acrimonious relationship with his parents.
Court records filed in 2000 show Roger Curry filed a restraining order against his son because of “domestic violence,” according to the Daily Mail.
The younger man put his hands around his father’s throat during a fight at the Whittier home, the newspaper reported. Another time, Kevin Curry told his father, “I could kill you,” and threatened to “mess him up.”
The restraining order against Kevin Curry — who has served time in prison for assault with a deadly weapon, fraud and domestic assault — was granted two months after the fight, the Daily Mail reported.
“Their relationship has always been kind of volatile, if you want to call it that,” neighbor Zania Leon told the BBC. “Kevin, you could hear him at all different hours of the night just pounding on their door, trying to get in, screaming at them — profanities. We worried for their safety.”
Doctors did, too.
“A review of Roger Curry’s medical records reveals that Mrs. Curry and Kevin Curry had been named in several reports of suspected neglect of Mr. Roger Curry,” according to court documents filed by the Los Angeles County Office of the Public Guardian. The office is seeking conservatorship of Roger Curry, which would give the government control over his finances and care.
In particular, the family’s housing situation was unstable after a fire left their home in Whittier uninhabitable, said Connie Draxler, deputy director of the public guardian’s office.
“We have unconfirmed reports of them being in motels and drifting,” she said. “At one point, they were actually living in the back yard of [their] burned-out home.”
Neighbors told the BBC that the elderly Currys slept on an air mattress in the back yard behind a padlocked gate.
Kevin Curry and his mother, Mary Jo, did not return messages from The Washington Post seeking comment.
Kevin Curry told the BBC that he had nothing to do with the abandonment of his father in England. Curry said his father became ill when they were on vacation in England and that he asked a friend to take him to the hospital.
The court documents disputed that, using dry legal language to describe an act that shocked Britons.
“Mr. Curry was taken surreptitiously to England by his wife, Mary Curry, and his son, Kevin Curry, and abandoned” in the countryside, the request for conservatorship says.
The court documents say one of the men who “found” Roger Curry on that winter morning had been instructed to do so by the elderly man’s son.
That man, Simon Hayes, told investigators that “Kevin Curry and Mary Curry had brought Mr. Curry to … England so that he could be hospitalized there.”
While Roger Curry was in the hospital, Hayes told authorities, the elderly man’s family continued on their European vacation.
What authorities believe happened to Roger Curry even has a callous nickname: Granny-dumping. Centuries ago, the Japanese called it ubasute, according to Business Insider. Poor families would leave their elders at the top of mountains when they were unable to care for them.
The modern-day equivalent, which is on the rise in Japan, according to the magazine, involves driving elderly family members to hospitals or the offices of nearby charities and “essentially giving them up for adoption.”
The National Council on Aging doesn’t specify how many victims of elder abuse are abandoned. In general, the organization says, mental impairment makes a person more susceptible. Nearly half of those with dementia experienced abuse or neglect.
In 2015, “care contributors” lost an average of $15,000 in annual income reducing or quitting work to care for people with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. One in 5 cut back on their own doctor visits.
In Roger Curry’s case, what remains unclear is the motive. Court documents say he was receiving post-retirement benefits from three places: the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Air Force and a pension fund with Kaiser Permanente. But court documents don’t say whether his family was after that money.
But caring for Roger Curry, who needs 24-hour care, can be expensive — between $1,000 and $6,000 a month, or more, Draxler said. And that doesn’t include the physical or emotional toll of caring for a senescent parent.
“There’s the potential that all the things could have been potential motive,” Draxler said. “We have not engaged in that conversation with his family.”
Police also haven’t described what they think the motive was. Officers in America haven’t arrested his relatives.
So far, Hayes is the only person to be charged, accused of lying to authorities. He’s out on bail awaiting trial.
Now Roger Curry is in a Los Angeles-area nursing home under the care of the L.A. County Public Guardian. The county is requesting permanent conservatorship. If a judge grants it, the government would take care of Roger Curry for the rest of his life.
Court documents say no one in Roger Curry’s family has objected to the government’s request.
“No one in his family is prepared to accept responsibility for him,” the documents say. “His own wife and son abused him when they took him overseas only to abandon him there.”