THE mystery “forest boy” who turned up in Berlin claiming to have spent five years living wild in the German woods has admitted fabricating the entire story after being identified as a Dutch runaway.
The youth, whose true identity had baffled German police for 10 months, was finally named as Robin Van Helsum, 20, from Hengelo in the Netherlands, who had disappeared from his home last year without trace.
He arrived in the German capital last September, claiming to have spent five years living in the woods with his father, sleeping rough in caves and tents.
Giving his name only as “Ray”, he fed the authorities a tale of survival, saying that his father had died and he had been forced to walk alone for five days to seek help. But it emerged last Friday that he had simply caught a train to Berlin after walking out on his Dutch family, including his two-year-old son, “to start a new life”.
The hoax ended when friends came forward after recognising him from a photograph released by German police – the first he would allow them to take – last week.
He is now facing the threat of criminal charges for a deception that has cost the German taxpayer thousands of euros.
“He has admitted that he is a fraud,” Thomas Neuendorf of the Berlin police told The Telegraph. “We confronted the young man known as ‘Ray’ with this new information and he said, ‘OK, you got me – I am Robin and I made the whole story up’.”
The youth may now be prosecuted for fraud and wasting police time. After 10 months of being cared for by Berlin social services, which housed him and sent him to a local school at an estimated cost of £5,000 a month, police decided to make a final appeal for information.
Reports on Dutch media said he had a two-year-old son with an ex-girlfriend who wanted him to return home and be a proper father.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.