UK & World News
Germany: 'Forest Boy' Escapes Jail Sentence
A mysterious youth who turned up in Berlin in 2011 claiming to have lived in woodland for years has avoided prison.
Instead Robin van Helsum, 21, has been sentenced by Berlin's juvenile district court to 150 hours of community service and ordered to undergo therapy.
In a tale that captured the world's imagination, he appeared at Berlin city hall in September two years ago saying that his first name was Ray and that he had lived in woods with his father for five years.
Speaking English and only a few words of German, 'Ray' claimed his father had died suddenly and that, after burying him in the woods, he walked north for five days to the German capital.
He gave his age as 17 - two years less than he really was.
Police never found a body and after a month-long investigation and an international appeal for information, the teenager, dubbed "forest boy", was identified by a former girlfriend.
It turned out he was a young Dutchman from the city of Hengelo who had left home without a word to his family.
Van Helsum faced charges of defrauding the German social welfare system for telling authorities he was a minor.
That lie entitled him to thousands of euros' worth of youth benefits over several months in an institution for assisted living where he was assigned a legal guardian.
Although the court decided against a jail term, it warned Van Helsum he could face a claim for the benefits he had received.
"The abatement of action was agreed with the consent of public prosecutors," the court said in a statement.
"However, it does not rule out any claims for restitution by juvenile services against the accused."