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The Berlin 'Forest Boy” Mystery Is Solved

The Forest Boy was neither from the forest, nor a boy. With patience and police work, the inexplicable scam was destined to be revealed.

Not out of the woods (B.H.)
Not out of the woods (B.H.)

BERLIN - On September 5, 2011, a young man speaking English checked in with Berlin authorities saying that his name was "Ray" and that his date of birth was June 20, 1994, which made him 17 – a minor. These two things, the boy claimed, constituted the only information about himself that he remembered aside from the fact that he'd spent the past five years in an unknown forest location with his father "Ryan," who had died and whom he had buried under some rocks in the forest. His mother "Doreen" had died earlier in a car crash.

German media leapt on the tale, dubbing Ray the "Forest Boy."

Meanwhile, on September 2, 2011, a missing person alert had been issued in the Netherlands for a 20-year-old Dutch man named Robin van H. from Hengelo. This was the day Robin van H. disappeared in the company of a friend who returned a few days later after their money ran out, saying they had gone to Berlin. Robin van H. sent a letter with no return address to his parents saying that he had decided to stay in Berlin, and for Dutch police the matter was resolved: at 20, Robin van H. was an adult and could live wherever he chose.

After successfully leading Berlin police around for nine months by posing as "Ray," it has now been established that his real identity is Robin van H. Missing minors enjoy special protection, and "Ray" had declined to cooperate with authorities, refusing to be examined by psychologists, to hold a press conference or have pictures of himself released. Finally, Berlin authorities were able to send out a picture of him last week, which is when his real identity was bound to become quickly apparent.

It is as yet unclear if Robin van H., who has now admitted to his real identity but who is in any case due to be DNA-tested by police, has any intention of returning to his hometown.

An acquaintance, Mo Rahimi Rigi, 21, who had shared an apartment with Robin van H., told the Belgian paper de Standaart that his friend had studied PR and marketing, but was unhappy in Hengelo and wanted to get away to the exciting life of a big city to find himself. He stated that Robin van H. was in no way stupid or confused. He also believed that Robin van H. had personal and financial problems.

Berlin police, meanwhile, are examining possible grounds on which to bring charges against Robin van H., and say that his nine-month Berlin visit, including being put up at state expense in a facility for teens, cost 30,000 euros – money Robin van H. will presumably have to pay back.

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation.

Read the full stories here and here. Original articles by Rob Savelberg and Cordula Schmitz.

Photo - B.H.

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