German police admitted yesterday that they are baffled by a bizarre case involving an English-speaking, yet unidentified teenaged boy who reported to authorities in Berlin over 10 days ago claiming that he had been living rough with his father in woods for the past five years.
A police spokesman in Berlin said that officials were still trying to establish the teenager's true identity and had alerted police throughout Europe to establish if his photograph and the sparse details he gave about his recent past matched anyone on missing persons lists.
"We are still trying to find out who this boy is," a Berlin police spokesman told Germany's mass circulation Bild newspaper."
"He had no passport or identification papers and was unable to say where he came from," he added.
They said the teenager had only been able to say that his first name was "Ray" and appeared to have no idea of his surname or his original home. He told police he had spent the last five years wandering the woods with his father and that they had lived in tents and holes in the ground.
A fortnight ago, according to the boy's statements, his father suddenly died after a fall. The teenager said he had buried him in ditch and following advice his father had given him before his death, he took out his compass and headed north to Berlin on foot.
Police said the boy, who is estimated to be between 16 and 18 years old, reported to them on 5 September after wandering about in front of the city's town hall. He was said to be physically fit and equipped with a tent, sleeping bag and rucksack.
Bild published a head and shoulders photograph of the mystery teenager yesterday. It showed what appeared to be a normal, healthy adolescent in a brown T-shirt with a pageboy haircut.
Because he is suspected of being a minor under German law, his features were deliberately blurred.
Other unconfirmed reports said that the boy had told police that his father's name was "Ryan" while his mother was called "Doreen".
The teenager was said to have taken to the woods with his father after his mother died in a car accident five years ago.
Police said "Ray" spoke English and had a smattering of German. They said that as he had told them he was about 17 years old, he was classified as a minor and was currently living at a centre for displaced young people an at undisclosed location.
"He is still in shock, we want to make sure he is left in peace," a police spokesman said.
He said they had employed English language experts to try and determine what region he came from but to no avail.
Some public reaction to the boy's claims was highly sceptical yesterday. One blogger pointed out that in Germany a compass was hardly necessary for orientation.
"Anyone who is stuck in the depths of even the deepest countryside needs only to walk for the maximum of an hour before reaching a village," wrote one online commentator.
If authentic, the boy's story bore similarities with Germany's last "forest hermit" case in 2007 which involved a 43-year-old American who lived rough in the woods above the Mosel river for four years after breaking up with his girlfriend.Reuse content