This weekend, Paul, a 12 year old boy disappeared from his home about 20 miles from here. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, he seemed cheerful, said he was gonna meet up with his friends at the school's sports yard, kissed his Mom goodbye and took off with his bicycle.
When he wasn't back for dinner, his parents did the obvious, called friends and neighbors, drove around looking for him, and finally called the police.
Family, friends and neighbors kept searching all over the village.
On Monday police questioned the boy's schoolmates. They were not surprised to hear that he took off. "He actually announced it" they confirm. "He kept saying by June 18 I'll be gone!" He even had some stickers on his desk at school where he checked off the days counting up to that day.
At home they found notes that also talked about leaving home and not returning.
Yesterday, three days after Paul's disappearance, citizens at the neigbor town found his bike near a church. It was in good shape, so an accident could be ruled out. The location was in the opposite direction of the school he claimed to be heading to.
The mother said he didn't have any money or ID with him, however he took his backpack.
"It's not like him to disappear without saying anything" she said. And still - he did.
There are rumours that there were problems in that family (doesn't every family have their problems?) and that he wasn't very popular at school (he is 12, they're all teenagers, it's a tough time.)
I don't know whether he has a cell phone, and I wonder why it has never been mentioned by the media. Update June 23rd: he doesn't have a cell phone.
Also it is unclear if he ever made it to the school yard.
They have been looking for him by chopper and using track hounds, and they're searching his house.
If he had a plan, he probably took a bus and then a train, for all we know he could be in France at the soccer championship or in Germany looking for his relatives. Even without his wallet and ID, I'm pretty sure he could make it to close-by neighbor countries within very little time.
I told Colin about it.
"He must be crazy" he said "why would he want to run away? If they find him, he's gonna be in so much trouble."
Colin turns 8. We'll talk again when he's 12.
When I was about 12, I was reading "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo" by Christiane F, a book about a heroine addicted girl in Berlin, Germany in the 80s. I also read about a kid that ran away from home at that time.
I remember thinking "when things get worse around here, I may have to try that, too. Maybe my parents will be so grateful to see me back, that they won't be so strict anymore."
With strict I meant curfews. I wanted more freedom.
Good thing I didn't run away. I'm pretty sure they would have grounded me forever.
Anyway. I am worried. First the quadruple homicide in our neighbor village in December. Now this.
I don't know Paul, and I don't know this family. According to statistics, every year several hundred kids his age and older run away from home in Switzerland. Almost all of them are found.
Still, at night, I toss and turn, and I imagine his mother being awake as well, with undesirable thoughts in her head, asking herself why, what could she have done, should she have picked up on signs, is he alive, why doesn't he at least get in touch, ...?
Also I may have watched one too many "without a trace" episodes, because I keep thinking "have they analyzed his internet history yet, what did he google, who was he in touch with, what messages did he send?"
So I hope this boy is doing OK and he'll turn up soon.
Update June 26:
Paul is alive and physically unharmed!
What a relief! German police found him in a house in Düsseldorf. A 35 yo man has been arrested in that raid last night.
As the police chief and the DA released at the press conference this afternoon, it looks like Paul got in touch with the man via internet games / chats.
What game it was, how he got to Germany, and if Paul was held at that house without his consent, is still being investigated.
The parents that were being brought to see him at the Düsseldorf police station, as well as Paul himself seemed happy to be reunited!
Colin, who watched that press conference with us, stated "this is pretty much the same thing as being offered candy by an unknown guy in a car, right? Just don't do it!"
Exactly right, little man!
Update June 27:
Obviously a request to investigate for sexual abuse has been filed. The man who has been arrested is alleged to have advertised on his website to look after children and help them with homework. According to neighbours there were kids going in and out of that apartment.
Also it looks like he booked a flight to Switzerland for the weekend.