June 16, 2012
Forest Boy Identified
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com
Known to German locals as Forest Boy, Robin van Helsum had his 15 minutes of international fame recently as local police and Interpol sent his picture out all over the world in a last ditch effort to find any remaining family he may have left. Now, his stepmother and his friends have confirmed his identity. Helsum is actually 20 years old, hails from the Dutch town Hengelo, and has been missing for 9 months.
His story was a wild one: Calling himself “Ray,” Helsum wandered into Berlin around 9 months ago carrying only a backpack, a tent, and a case of amnesia. He told authorities he and his father escaped to the woods 5 years ago after his mother died in a car accident. Living off the land, Ray and his father moved freely about the German forest, wandering from cave to tunnel until his father passed, leaving Ray alone. He told authorities he buried his father in the woods, packed up his things, and embarked on a 5-day journey north until he hit Berlin. Local police and even Interpol had been trying to corroborate his story and find any remaining family members for the past 9 months, all while Helsum had been staying with youth services and going to public schools in Berlin.
With Helsum´s story debunked, it´s come out that he likely ran away from home in an attempt to start a new life and landed first in Berlin, fabricating the entire story about living in the woods with his father.
“We are 100 percent certain that he is this 20-year-old boy, because his stepmother positively identified him," a police spokeswoman told Die Welt newspaper. "We have made contact with his family and friends. A photo where you could see him with a chain round his neck showing his name provided the proof. We are very glad that he has been found."
Helsum´s story did seem a little too wild to be true, though he does not appear to suffer from any mental or psychological issues. Authorities aren´t yet sure why Helsum decided to perpetrate this hoax against the authorities, though he will be subject to an investigation now that his true identity is known.
The authorities had exhausted their efforts to find any member of Helsum´s family, including checking his DNA against the international list of missing persons and sending his fingerprints around the world. It wasn´t until they published his photo globally that they finally got a lead.
"This is no joke anymore," Berlin police spokesman Michael MaaÃ told Die Welt.
He made right fools of us. The costs could come down to him."
Speaking to The Local, Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf questioned his ability to be able to live in the woods for 5 years with the little gear he had with him.
“There were things that did not fit with his story – he was relatively clean and the tent he had with him did not look like it had been used for five years," Neuendorf told the paper.
"It was also simply unimaginable that someone could live near Berlin for such a long time without being seen," he added.
The cruelest irony in this story, sadly, is that, while Helsum had been away from his parents, his father actually did pass away, just as Helsum had told authorities. According to ABC´s Good Morning America, police had to break this news to him Friday morning.