Saturday 21 October 2017

Dutch 'Forest Boy' sentenced for lying about a life in woods

Damien McElroy Berlin

Robin Van Helsum, the Dutch man who conned Germany into believing he was "Forest Boy", a runaway who lived for years in the woods, has been sentenced to 150 hours' community service.

Van Helsum admitted using deception to obtain state services valued at almost €30,000 during a brief hearing before a judge in Berlin.

Court officials said he had agreed to undertake community service in repayment of the debt. Local authorities had prosecuted him to recover their losses. Van Helsum turned up at a central Berlin police station in late 2011, speaking only English and claiming to have lost much of his memory.

At the time, the case caused a media sensation as officials said he claimed to have lived for years with his father in the woods.

The accounts said he had travelled to Berlin after his father, Ryan, had died and gave his name as Ray.

A police appeal said he had buried his father in a shallow grave and that his mother had died some years earlier.

He gave his age as 17 and was taken into juvenile care.

But the appeal quickly unravelled after publication of a photograph. Friends recognised Van Helsum and contacted the authorities.

It turned out that he was from the industrial Dutch city of Hengelo and was actually aged 21. His stepmother claimed that he had left the town after his father had died.

The public was excluded from the hearing, which lasted less than an hour, after the judge ruled that the proceedings should not be turned into an "entertainment" . (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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