'Forest boy' identified as Dutch runaway
GERMANY’S MYSTERIOUS “forest boy” has been exposed as a fraud after he was identified as Dutchman Robin van Helsum (20).
Last September a blond young man calling himself “Ray” walked into a Berlin police station saying he knew nothing about his identity except for living rough for five years with his father since his mother’s death.
After Berlin police released a photograph of the man on Tuesday, Dutch police were contacted yesterday by a couple claiming to be his step-parents and identifying him as a 20-year-old man who disappeared from his home days before he walked into the Berlin station.
“He had personality problems and this was his way of starting a new life,” an unnamed friend of van Helsum told the Dutch Volkskrant.
Family members provided Dutch police with another photograph of the young man, reportedly confirming his identity.
The young man spoke fluent English but only a few words of German. After five years of living wild, he claimed his father fell and injured himself badly. After burying his father in a shallow grave – “Ray” said he didn’t know where – he started out on a two-week hike that he says took him through Brandenburg and into Berlin.
After placing the young man in sheltered accommodation, the police began their investigation – with nothing to go on but the young man’s claims.
Police say now they were always in two minds about the case. On the one hand, they say his hiking equipment and winter clothing lent credence to his story. On the other hand, investigators were suspicious that he showed no physicals signs of malnutrition or exposure after claiming to be in the wild for a long period.
Berlin police are struggling to explain how they overlooked a Europol missing persons report for van Helsum issued weeks before he walked into their Berlin station. They may now charge the Dutchman with wasting police time and resources.
“This is no joke anymore,” said Berlin police spokesman Michael Maass to Die Welt newspaper. “If this is true he made right fools of us. He may well be stuck with the costs.”