Robin Van Helsum. (Source: Berlin.de/polizei)
By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY
After almost a year, Berlin police have identified the mysterious "Forest Boy" as a 20-year-old young man from the Netherlands who made up the whole story of living in the woods for five years.
The young man, who had told police he knew only his first name, "Ray," has been identified as Robin Van Helsum of the Dutch city of Hengelo.
"We went to him with the new information this morning, and he said, 'OK, you got me - I am Robin, and I made the whole story up," Thomas Neuendorf of the Berlin police tells the British newspaper The Telegraph.
The young man turned up at Berlin City Hall last September, claiming he was 18 years old and had been living in the woods with his father for five years until he died.
"Ray" spoke English and some German but offered scant information about his life. He had with him a tent and a backpack.
Berlin police said they had grave doubts about this story but could not solve the mystery until they released his photo this week to the media.
Relatives in the Netherlands quickly identified him as Robin Van Helsum from the Dutch city of Hengelo, police there confirmed to the Germany daily Die Welt, according to Der Spiegel Online.
"We are 100% certain that we are dealing with the 20-year-old boy, who his stepmother unambiguously identified," a Hengelo police spokeswoman told the German newspaper. "We are very happy that he's been found."
In Berlin, police were not quite so thrilled. "It's no longer a joke," police spokesman Michael Maass tells Die Welt. If the story is made up, he says, "then he deliberately took us for fools, and he could be liable for the costs."
The Germany news agency DPA says Van Helsum was last seen in Hengelo on Sept. 2, 2011, just before leaving for Berlin with a friend. That was days before he surfaced in the German capital as "Forest Boy."
"I am certain that is Robin," a school friend tells Dutch broadcaster NOS. "He had personal problems, and that was his way of beginning a new life."
Neuendorf of the Berlin police tells The Telegraph that Van Helsum has spoken to his stepmother by phone, "but he doesn't want to return home."