This pisses me off. Not that the boy is there and telling this story, mind you, but that the good people in Berlin have been looking after Ray for 9 months and only now am I hearing about him.
(At the link, scroll down to see their grammatically uncomfortable but still readable English translation.)
He would only know his first name, which was “Ray”. He was born on June 20th 1994. The boy was not able or maybe did not want to name neither his family name nor his heritage or place of birth.
He affirmed for the last 5 years him and his father Ryan used to live in the wild. They were hiking with the help of maps and a compass only and stayed in tents or caves over night.
When his father passed away in August 2011, he buried him in a hole in the forest underneath some stones.
He says he and his dad moved out to the wilderness after his mother died. Then after his father died last August, Ray hiked north through the woods for five weeks until he emerged in Berlin, where he reported to City Hall.
The authorities are rightly skeptical of Ray’s story, and are asking for information from any third parties who recognize Ray. They note that he was carrying a “like new” Finnish-brand backpack, had some clean clothes with him, and that his hands, fingernails and teeth were in good condition. He may have spent a lot of time backpacking with his father, but it sounds like he wasn’t actually far removed from civilization for long periods of time.
Yahoo! has further commentary on Ray, such as that he’s picking up German quickly while going to school and that he’s using a laptop and cellphone with no problems. This much jumps out at me as a former English teacher in a foreign country:
Neuendorf said that Ray does not speak English with a particular accent, leading investigators to believe that he is not a native speaker. There are no indications, however, of what his native tongue might be.
In my experience, if a person speaks a given language “without a particular accent,” that means it IS his native language. He would speak a foreign language with an accent indicative of where he comes from; a native Russian-speaker, for example, would speak English with a Russian accent. If Ray speaks English accent-free, that means that either he is extremely well-practiced in it as a foreign language and has learned from native speakers from a variety of Anglophone countries, or that he’s a native Anglophone who has also received training as an actor. I think the second option is more likely, but either one is intriguing.
Since he showed up in Berlin and started out by speaking English, I think it’s safe to assume he’s not a native German-speaker, but since he’s picking up German so well when he’s at least 16 years old, he probably learned a good deal of the language before this point.
I’ll be snatching up new information on Ray like a magpie on shiny things as the story unfolds. The story is just screaming “novel idea!” at me, and I have more than enough works in progress demanding my scant spare time already.
ETA: Okay, I did a little Googling and found some other stories. The Guardian has a slightly different take on Ray’s language skills, specifically:
While he speaks English, experts who have heard his voice do not think it is his mother tongue.
I do not claim to know better, but I would like to hear more specifics from the experts. Surely, they must have picked up a hint of some other language in his voice? Can we narrow it down to a sub-family? Does he sound more Germanic or Balto-Slavic?
He recalls details such as seeing his father get money “out of a wall” and going shopping in the supermarket Lidl, but very little else.
Okay, so his dad occasionally visited an ATM to pick up supplies at Lidl. That money has to have come from somewhere. Perhaps the family is independently wealthy and more than a little eccentric? And by “eccentric,” I mean the phrase “batshit insane” sometimes came up while talking about Ray’s dad?
“He didn’t look like at all like a vagrant – he didn’t smell, he was clean, his clothes were clean but he simply didn’t know anything about who he was,” said the female office worker who was called to front desk at the Rathaus by security guards because she speaks English.
“He had only a few words of German but was completely fluent in English, and said that his father had told him it was an important language,” said the civil servant who asked not to be named. “Although he seemed to be a native English speaker, I detected some sort of accent.”
The boy told the civil servant that he had been travelling around with his father, who it is thought was named Ryan, for “as long as he could remember” but his father had died and so he had followed his compass north.
“He seemed calm, not scared at all, but quiet. He said he had been told to go to Berlin if he ever needed help and had taken several weeks to walk here,” she said.
Police said he later described how he had been living in a forest for “at least five years” following the death of his mother in a car crash but that his father had recently died in a fall so he buried him in a shallow grave before walking to Berlin.
As of yesterday, the Telegraph still had no new information except that “dozens” of letters from “across the world” have claimed him as a lost relative and all have been ruled out. Only reluctantly did he allow the police to release his picture to the media, and he’s still uninterested in finding out who he is. Of course there are holes in his story big enough to let a truck drive through, but the question is what he’s covering up. I’m leaning towards him being a runaway, but I crave more facts.