Some 10 months ago, a young man appeared at Berlin's city hall with a sleeping bag and a tent, claiming he'd been living off the land for five years and didn't know his last name. Police were mystified by his story, and the German media dubbed him "forest boy."
"Ray," as he called himself, had for months refused to allow authorities to publish his picture. This week, though, once police finally did so, it took very little time for relatives in the Netherlands to identify him. His name is Robin v. H., and he comes from the Dutch city of Hengelo, police there confirmed to German daily Die Welt on Friday.
"We are 100 percent certain that we are dealing with the 20-year-old boy, who his stepmother unambiguously identified," a Hengelo police spokeswoman told the paper. "We are very happy that he's been found."
Until now, Berlin police believed that "Ray" was a minor, aged about 17. He had been under the care of Berlin authorities since he showed up at city hall in September 2011, saying that he knew only his his first name. He told child protective services that he didn't know where he came from, but had been living rough in the countryside with his father "Ryan" for some five years, navigating with a compass and maps, and sleeping in caves or a tent. He claimed his father died in August 2011 and that he buried the body before walking north for five days and reaching Berlin.
'He Had Personal Problems'
He was unable to tell police where exactly the two had been living, nor could he say exactly where his father was buried. Authorities never found a body. Communication with the young man also reportedly proved difficult, as he spoke very little English or German.
If it turns out that he intentionally invented his story, there could be consequences for the 20-year-old. "It's no longer a joke," police spokesman Michael Maass told Die Welt. If the story is made up, Maass said, "then he deliberately took us for fools, and he could be liable for the costs."
According to German news agency DPA, Robin v. H. was last seen in Hengelo on Sept. 2, 2011 ahead of taking a trip to Berlin with a friend -- just days before he appeared at the city hall as "forest boy."
"I am certain that is Robin," a school friend told Dutch broadcaster NOS. "He had personal problems and that was his way of beginning a new life."