‘Forest Boy’ a Hoax: Mystery Teen Is Dutch 20-Year-Old

Soon after Berlin police distributed a photograph of the boy who claimed to have been living in the woods for the past five years, he was positively identified as Robin van Helsum of the Netherlands.

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REUTERS/Berlin Police/Handout

An undated photo of Ray made available by Berlin police, June 13, 2012.

UPDATE: The boy who claimed to have been living in the German woods for the past 5 years is actually a Dutch citizen named Robin van Helsum, 20, who was reported missing last September in his hometown of Hengelo, Netherlands.  According to news reports he was identified by an ex-girlfriend, several friends and his stepmotherfrom a photograph distributed by Berlin police earlier this week. When confronted with the facts, police say van Helsum admitted the truth. “The young man known as ‘Ray’ was confronted with the results of the investigation,” a statement from the Berlin police reads. “He then confirmed his real personal details and admitted that the previous story — that he had lived for years in the woods — had been invented.”

It’s been nine months since a teenaged boy wandered into the city hall in Berlin and announced to startled police that his name was Ray and that he had been living with his father in a German forest for the last five years. His father had died, so the boy buried him and then walked to Berlin. Ray speaks English, and told police that he was born on June 20, 1994, but otherwise knows little about who he is or where he comes from.  So far, all attempts to identify the boy have failed; this week the Berlin police released photos of Ray to the public in the hope that someone would recognize him and come forward.

“We have checked his DNA against all missing person reports, sent the data to Interpol so that they could check it internationally, but unfortunately without any success,” Police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf told the Associated Press.

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Complicating an already complex situation, none of the facts Ray has offered up about his life have been able to be verified. Ray told investigators that his mother, Doreen, died in a fatal car accident when he was 12. Ray claims it was after that traumatic event that he and his father, Ryan, took to the forest, sleeping in tents or caves. Investigators have been unable to confirm any of these details — no fatal car accidents matched the story of Doreen’s death —  nor find the boy’s father’s body. While Ray spoke only a few words of German when he first arrived in Berlin, he has picked up the language quickly. The boy also quickly adapted to technology — he was easily able to use a computer and cell phone, which could be evidence that he has not been away from modern society for five years. “There are many question marks,” Neuendorf said.

Ray is described as being somewhere between 16 and 20 years old, 5-foot 11-inches tall with dark blonde hair, blue eyes and scars on his chin and arms. He is being taken care of by youth services while authorities try to find his family members. “There is no one to appeal to; all my family are dead,” he told the legal guardian appointed to him, according to ABC News. Authorities say Ray is refusing to make any public appeals to find any relatives. Police in Berlin have asked anyone with information on him to contact them.

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