The mysterious young man who emerged in Berlin nearly a year ago claiming he had been living in a German forest with his father for five years has now been identified and his story debunked, according to German police.
The young man, who has since been known only as Ray, has been identified as 20-year-old Robin van Helsum, from the Dutch town of Hengelo. Van Helsum was 19 when he went missing nine months ago, and his stepmother identified him from the photo released earlier this week, German police told ABC News.
"We are 100 percent certain that he is this 20-year-old boy, because his stepmother positively identified him," a police spokeswoman told Die Welt newspaper. "We have made contact with his family and friends. A photo where you could see him with a chain round his neck showing his name provided the proof. We are very glad that he has been found."
Van Helsum's story -- that his mother, Doreen, had been killed in a car accident, and that he had lived in the forest with his father, Ryan, until his death last summer -- is now believed to be a lie. He was the subject of a lengthy investigation by German police and the international police organization Interpol.
Van Helsum, who is now living in social care housing in Berlin, seems not to suffer mental problems, authorities told ABC News. Police have no idea what his motives were with the hoax, and they are questioning him again today.
"This is no joke anymore," Berlin police spokesman Michael Maaß told Die Welt. "He made right fools of us. The costs could come down to him."
"Forest boy," as van Helsum came to be known in the German media, wandered into the German capital nine months ago, carrying only a tent and a backpack. He told police he had been walking for five days to get to Berlin. He called himself Ray and told authorities that both of his parents were dead.
Authorities went to painstaking lengths to identify van Helsum, having checked his DNA with international missing person lists, made public appeals, and sent his fingerprints around the world, all to no avail. It was only this week that he allowed his photo to be released.
"There were things that did not fit with his story -- he was relatively clean and the tent he had with him did not look like it had been used for five years," Thomas Neuendorf of the Berlin police told German news website The Local.
German police said van Helsum insisted that he buried his father before starting his five-day trek that landed him in Berlin. But he didn't know where his father died, police say.
Because he spoke English with an accent, German investigators thought that one or both of his parents could be American or British.
There are no immediate plans for what will next happen to van Helsum.