German police: 'Forest Boy' story is a hoax; story unravels after photograph is released

(CNN) - The tale of the so-called Forest Boy is a lie, police in Germany said on Friday.

A young male who claimed he lived in the German woods for five years is actually a 20-year-old man from Hengelo, Netherlands, who never lived in the forest and made his way to Berlin sometime last year.

A spokeswoman for Berlin's police says the man will have to leave a Berlin city youth home since he is not under age, as he had claimed.

Police say it only took two days after the first pictures of the man were published for an acquaintance to recognize him and inform the Dutch police, who then notified authorities in Berlin.

The hoax ended after German police released a photograph of who they said was a 17-year-old known only as "Ray" who turned up at Berlin City Hall last year after claiming to have been living in the woods for five years.

The release of the photograph, along with details of his appearance and scant possessions at the time of his discovery, was part of an effort by German authorities to unravel the mysterious identity and family background of a young man who spoke English and a little German.

According to authorities, he claimed to know only his name, his date of birth of June 20, 1994, and his parents' first names.

After months of investigation, German authorities said they were stumped.

He told authorities upon his discovery last September that he had been living in the woods with his father, Ryan, but decided to leave after his father died, investigators said. He couldn't explain why his father died.

Ray was unable to name or show the place he buried his father in the forest underneath stones, officials said, so investigators couldn't find the body.

"They were hiking with the help of maps and a compass only and stayed in tents or caves overnight," Berlin authorities said in a statement released Tuesday.

Ray provided police with "some vague information" about his mother, saying her name was Doreen, and he wore a gold-colored necklace around his neck that held a pendant with the letter "D," police said.

He claimed that his mother had died in a car accident when he was 12 years old, but he didn't remember the details of the accident, authorities said. He said he presumed the scars on his face were caused by the accident.

After his father died last August, he said, he roamed north for five days until he arrived at Berlin City Hall and asked for help last September 5, authorities said.

He couldn't "specify anything about cities, countries or regions him and his father had traveled through," they said in a statement.

German authorities had been trying to establish the male's identity through Interpol, and a guardian was appointed, authorities said.

"The Youth Office and the Berlin Police have great doubts on the boy's story. That is the reason why the Youth Office now decided to publish a photo of 'Ray' and ask for your help," authorities had said in a statement.

The story was compared to that of the "Piano Man," who was found wandering near a beach on the isle of Sheppey, Kent, in southern England in 2005. He was wearing a waterlogged dinner suit with all its labels cut out and a tie. It initially was reported that he stunned witnesses with a "virtuoso performance" on the piano.

The man was identified as a 20-year-old German national from Bavaria after telling staff at a hospital that he had been attempting suicide when found by police, the Times of London reported in August 2005. The man could not play the piano as well as initially reported, the newspaper said.

The man, whom authorities did not identify because of confidentiality laws, flew back home to Germany, the Times said.


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