Friday 01 July 2022

Berlin ‘forest boy’ is Dutch

The boy who appeared in Berlin last September saying he had been living in the forest was identified as Dutch on Friday following the release of photos by the German police.

He was identified as the 20-year-old Robin van Helsum by former pupils at his school in Hengelo. They recognised him from the Berlin police photos published on Thursday in the Telegraaf.
The ‘forest boy’ emerged in the German capital on September 5 last year and told authorities he had been living in the forest with his father since the death of his mother in a car accident five years previously. When his father died, the boy said he buried him in the forest and then walked to Berlin.
According to a former housemate, it is definitely Robin. ‘He had personal problems and this is his way of beginning a new life,’ he told Nos.
According to Saturday’s Telegraaf, the German authorities want Van Helsum to pay for his board and lodging over the past nine months.
‘We’ve spend more than €100 a day on food and accommodation, plus clothing and German lessons,’ Ed Koch of youth social services told the paper. ‘You are talking about €30,000 in total’.
The paper says the young man was heavily in debt before leaving the Netherlands and has a two-year-old child with his ex girlfriend. According to the Telegraaf, he had a court order against him for non payment of over €8,000 in rent.
The Telegraaf says Van Helsum’s subterfuge emerged last week when the authorities wanted to celebrate his 18th birthday party but he refused to attend a press conference. Then, on Friday morning, he confessed he had been lying to police, the paper said.
Although he will have to leave his present housing, the German authorities have no plans to make him homeless.
In the meantime, the Telegraaf says it is clear the Dutch and German authorities were working at cross purposes for some time. The police in Twente knew Van Helsum was last seen heading for Berlin when he was reported missing and had photographs of him. Nevertheless, the Germans brought in Interpol in an effort to identify the mystery man.
Because the youth said his name was Ray and that he was 17, Interpol’s computers did not pick up the connection with the missing Hengelo man, the paper said.

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments. has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.