Toronto

Missing Toronto pianist believed buried by wrong family in case of mistaken identity

In a bizarre case of mistaken identity, Scott Cushnie — a renowned Toronto musician known as Professor Piano — is believed to have died and was buried as someone else.

Scott Cushnie, 80, went missing in August

Scott Cushnie, known as Professor Piano, went missing in August, around the same time another family was trying to find a missing relative. Authorities now believe that family buried Cushnie in a case of mistaken identity. (Submitted by Andrea Reid)

In a bizarre case of mistaken identity, Scott Cushnie — a renowned Toronto musician known as Professor Piano — is believed to have died and was buried as someone else.

Eighty-year-old Cushnie, who was legally blind, lived in an independent seniors' apartment at River Street and King Street East, east of downtown Toronto.

He went missing in August, around the same time another family was trying to find a missing relative.

That family was subsequently contacted by the authorities regarding an elderly man who had died in hospital, after falling and injuring himself while walking downtown.

The family identified the deceased as their missing relative and a funeral was held.

But this month, the man they believed they had buried reappeared — alive — leaving the police and chief coroner to determine the true identity of the body in the grave.

Cushnie never married and had no children, but did have two living sisters and several nieces and nephews, according to his close friend Andrea Reid. Reid had been leading the search for him ever since she went to his home on Aug. 29 and only found his phone and wallet. 

He had a very unique life, and for him to have the most unique ending is a little bit appropriate.- Andrea Reid, friend of Scott Cushnie

"Last week I got a call from our lead detective that he believed that he had found Scott and he was no longer with us, and then he proceeded to tell me just a tale that is something you wouldn't believe if you saw it on TV," Reid told CBC Toronto.

"He basically just fell and an ambulance saw him fall and tended to him. He was taken to Sunnybrook and immediately succumbed to his injuries."

Mitch Lewis says he has known Cushnie since 1978 and calls him 'a national treasure.' (CBC)

Mitch Lewis, another friend, said he has known Cushnie since 1978.

He said when he got word that Cushnie had gone missing he couldn't imagine what could have happened to him.

"He was in good mental and physical shape, really good shape for 80-years-old," Lewis told CBC Toronto.

"I always called him a national treasure."

While police have not released the identity of the missing man who has now turned up alive, Lewis believes the entire episode must have been very traumatic for his relatives.

"Regardless of who the gentleman is, it must be awful for that other family. For me it's not over until [there is] conclusive proof," he said.

Andrea Reid — a close friend of Scott Cushnie — had been leading the search for him ever since she went to his home on Aug. 29 and only found his phone and wallet. (CBC)

That proof is expected to come soon. The chief coroner is now preparing to exhume the body to confirm the identity.

So for now, Reid says she is simply looking forward to getting a clear answer.

"As I understand it, he had a funeral, quite a nice one and was buried and that's where he's been this whole time and their family member did return alive and needless to say they had buried the wrong man," she said.

"I'm sorry for laughing but I do believe Scott, wherever he is, is laughing as well. I mean he had an incredible sense of humour and there is absolute relief. He had a very unique life, and for him to have the most unique ending is a little bit appropriate."

With files from Chris Glover

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Cushnie had no known children or family members. In fact, Cushnie had two living sisters and several nieces and nephews.
    Oct 18, 2018 1:37 PM ET