An 8-year-old boy who had been missing for more than a week has been found alive in a sewage system near his home, police in northwest Germany said.
The child went missing on June 17. This led to a large search and anxious family members.
But eight days after he disappeared, police in Oldenburg found him under a manhole cover thanks to a tip from a citizen who heard noises coming from the ground.
He was successfully rescued.
“After evaluating all traces and clues, the officers now assume that Joe crawled through a drain into the rainwater sewer system on the day of his disappearance and lost his orientation after several meters,” the police announced.
According to the preliminary investigation, they have “ruled out third-party negligence at this point in time.”
The search involved “a wide variety of police departments across the country as well as fire brigades and countless individual citizens who took part in the search for Joe.”
The boy was completely naked when he was found, but he had no significant injuries, only extreme hypothermia and dehydration, according to authorities.
He had lost his sense of direction and could not find a way out.
Police said that he followed the sewer system through a plastic pipe with a diameter of barely 23.6 inches (60 centimeters) after allegedly crawling along the line for 23 meters (75 feet). Some of his clothes were found in this pipe.
The child managed to navigate sewage shafts and intersections to get to the spot beneath the manhole cover where he was found.
Officers once launched an investigation following a homicide after receiving a report that the boy had been spotted with an unknown person, but the report turned out to be false.
The police believe that there was no foul play.
Joe is still in hospital and receiving care, but he still hasn’t been able to fully explain his side of the story to the police.
But the initial police report stated that Joe is suffering from a learning disability.
During the investigation, they suggested that if he thought the search was a game, he might remain hidden.
Fortunately, everything turned out very well.
“We are so happy, truly,” police spokesman Stephan Klatte remarked. “That is absolute luck. Of course, there was a possibility that we wouldn’t find the child there. Possibly, if he had not made a sound or these noises would not have been heard, then we may not have found him there at all.”
Joe’s father also expressed his deepest gratitude to everyone involved in finding his precious son.