'Forest Boy' Is A Hoax, Police Say

Jun 15, 2012
Originally published on June 15, 2012 6:25 pm

We won't pretend to be surprised:

"The forest boy known previously as 'Ray' has been identified as Robin van Helsum. from the Dutch town of Hengelo, Dutch police confirmed Friday morning." (Germany's The Local)

It took only about two days from the time that police in Berlin released a photo of "Ray" for him to be identified by friends.

It turns out he's not a 17-year-old boy who was living in the woods with his father until dad died — the story he told police. He's a 20-year-old Dutch man with personal problems.

As we said Thursday, the tale of "forest boy" had captivated many Germans.

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We told you yesterday about Germany's so-called Forest Boy and we have an update now on the teenager who captured the country's imagination with his Hollywood-like story. You may remember, the boy had walked into Berlin City Hall last September claiming to have lived in the woods for five years with his father. He told police that his parents had died and that he didn't remember his identity beyond his first name, Ray.


Hannah Cleaver of the German news site, told us Ray never waivered from his story, but authorities were skeptical.

HANNAH CLEAVER: Because he showed up looking quite clean, quite healthy and, if you'd really been living in the woods for five years, you wouldn't be.

BLOCK: There were months of investigation and finally, this week, police released Ray's photo, hoping that someone would recognize him.

CORNISH: Well, somebody did. His stepmother. It turns out that Ray is actually Robin van Helsum and he's not a teenager.

CLEAVER: He's a 20-year-old man from the Netherlands who ran away from what sounds to have been an unhappy family situation.

CORNISH: Van Helsum admitted it was all a hoax. He wanted to start a new life, so Forest Boy mystery solved. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.