After eight days of searching, the redeeming news came on Saturday morning that the missing boy had been found alive in a gully: “!! !! The 8 year old
The many exclamation marks express what not only the officials, but the whole city and many people in Germany feel: “We are so happy – really!” said police spokesman Stephan Klatte. The news spread rapidly on social media.
A walker in a residential area in the Donnerschwee district heard a faint whine from the direction of a manhole cover around 6:20 a.m. and informed the police, fire brigade and rescue services. When they opened the heavy lid, they found the little boy. The mentally handicapped child was found only a few hundred meters from his parents’ house. He was last seen in that part of the city, in the area of former barracks.
However, in the past few days there has also been a search in the neighboring Ammerland district after witnesses saw the boy in a strawberry field near a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Bad Zwischenahn.
The police did not rule out that Joe could understand the search as a kind of hide-and-seek. So she also opened old clothes containers in the city of Oldenburg – maybe Joe had crawled in.
The search moved the whole region. Volunteers roamed the city, the volunteer fire brigade supported the officials. Companies and associations shared the search calls.
The question of where the mentally handicapped eight-year-old Joe could have gone occupied people across Germany. The images that circulated showed a curly-headed child beaming happily at the camera.
But the longer the futile search lasted, the greater the fear of not finding him alive. The police also looked into the possibility of a violent crime. A murder commission was set up after a witness tip.
So the relief at the happy ending is all the greater. Joe was externally unharmed when the police freed him from the gully, Klatte said. “But he was clearly hypothermic due to the cooler night.” He was immediately taken to a hospital, where he was to be cared for and also examined.
The fact that Joe was finally found does not mean that the police have now completed the investigation. There are still many questions, chief among them: How did Joe get into the manhole?
Even a strong adult cannot easily lift the extremely heavy lid. It is conceivable that the child climbed into the tunnel labyrinth at another point in the branched canal system and crawled through the tubes, the police spokesman said.
“Some of the sewer pipes are so narrow that no adult can get through,” said Klatte. Now the investigators want to use cameras to look for clues in the sewer system in order to understand the path that Joe could have taken. But the other possible explanation, that a crime has been committed, has not yet been filed by the police, said Klatte. So it’s conceivable that someone put Joe in the manhole on purpose. “We will continue to keep an eye on this possibility,” said the police spokesman.