Tuesday 24 October 2017

Schoolboy who ran away 'because he was bored' reveals he has spent 10 weeks sleeping rough

Patrick Sawer

His head full of George Orwell’s adventures as a vagrant and itinerant dishwasher 15-year-old Arthur Heeler-Frood appeared to be determined to follow in the writer’s footsteps.

Shortly after reading his seminal 1933 work Down and Out in Paris and London on his Kindle, the teenager disappeared from home, leaving behind a note declaring “I have run away because I am bored of my life”.

Ten weeks later the schoolboy has been found safe and well, revealing that he spent his time sleeping rough while exploring England’s three largest cities.

After more than two months of silence – with no clue as to his whereabouts - Arthur was spotted by a member of the public on a train travelling from Exeter to Honiton, just 12 miles from his family home in Axminster.

His reappearance so close to home raised the question as to whether he had travelled anywhere further than Bristol, never mind Paris or even London.

But on Wednesday morning Arthur released a statement suggesting he had succeeded in indulging his ambition for adventure, while at the same time apologising for any inconvenience he had caused.

He said: “I have spent the last 10 weeks exploring London, Birmingham and Manchester by foot, sleeping rough at night. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped my family in trying to ensure my safe return. I apologise to the police for the time they spent looking for me and for the worry I have caused family and friends.”

Arthur’s relieved parents spoke of their joy at being reunited with their son – and even managed to poke some gentle fun at the state of his appearance when he finally reappeared.

Jeremy and Caroline Heller-Frood said outside their house: “He is safe and well. We've just got home with him and want a little bit of time to talk to him. He was recognised on a train. He was coming home and he is fine and well."

In a statement issued shortly after they added: “We are overjoyed to have Arthur home with us again; tired, grubby and rather smelly but otherwise none the worse for his experiences. We feel extremely lucky that he is safe and sound.”

The teenager had taken £350 of his savings with him when he left home on September 6, but had left behind his passport and had no phone or bank cards with him.

In a poignant note found shortly after he went missing Arthur asked his parents not to look for him and promised to return within a year. He wrote "To Mum and Dad, I have run away because I am bored of my life. Please don't try to find me or make me come home. I don't know how long I will be away for, but it won't be any longer than a year.

"You will find my school uniform in a bin bag in a small barn in the field on the green, down the road from Membury church. My bike is chained to the fence, there is a spare key to the lock on the window.”

The teenager added: “Please can you apologise to the restaurant and tell them that I will no longer be able to work there. I know you will be upset, but understand that I have to do this. From Arthur."

The teenager had gained 12 GCSEs at A* and A this summer and had just started his A-levels at Colyton Grammar, one of the country’s top state schools.

Before he left, Arthur also worked in a restaurant kitchen, just as Orwell had done in Paris.

Speaking before his son had been found Mr Heeler-Frood, 54, said: “Arthur didn’t run away from home like a lot of kids because he was in a bad place.

“That wasn’t the case from him. It was more he had  . . .  He has a zest for life.”

Mrs Heeler-Frood said: ““The book he was reading before he left was Down and Out in Paris and London. You wonder if that had been influence. He was reading it on a Kindle, which he left behind."

Orwell’s book recounts his time living with the poor and destitute of Europe, working in restaurants in Paris and spending time alongside tramps and vagrants.

Arthur’s reappearance came two days after Facebook agreed to hand over details of any activity on his account to his parents and police in an attempt to help them trace his movements.

Mrs Heeler-Food said the social media giant had previously ignored her letters urging them to help.


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