25.06.2022, Niedersachsen, Oldenburg: Polizisten untersuchen einen Gully. Der seit acht Tagen vermisste Achtjähriger aus Oldenburg ist lebend in einem Gully gefunden worden. Der geistig behinderte Junge namens Joe war am 17. Juni zuletzt gesehen worden. Aktuell wird er in ein Krankenhaus versorgt. Foto: Andre van Elten/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

In the case of little Joe from Oldenburg, who was found missing in a gully eight days later, the police have ruled out a crime after an initial thorough investigation. After evaluating all traces and clues, the investigators are convinced that the eight-year-old crawled into the rainwater drainage system while playing on the day of his disappearance and lost his bearings there, the police in the Lower Saxony city said on Tuesday.

The mentally handicapped boy disappeared the Friday before last and was only discovered in a gully on Saturday after a pedestrian pointed it out. He heard a faint cry and called the police. Emergency services had previously searched in vain for Joe in the Oldenburg area for days at great expense. Sniffer dogs and drones were also used. Numerous volunteers helped.

Initially, the investigators assumed that the child might misinterpret the search for him as a game and continue to hide on purpose. After several days, however, the possibility of a crime increasingly came into focus. A witness stated that he saw the boy he was looking for in the company of an unknown person. The police immediately set up a homicide squad.

According to the investigators on Tuesday, however, the interim checks clearly showed that this information could be classified as “not relevant”. The same applies to other tips from witnesses who claimed to have seen the boy at the time of his disappearance. None of them could be verified, it said. Overall, there is no evidence that Joe was outside of the underground sewage system on the days in question.

Accordingly, the police assume that on the day of his disappearance, the boy himself crawled into a one-meter-high drain pipe that leads from the rainwater sewer system into a ditch while playing. He followed the pipe, which branched out a little later, and crawled further into a pipe that was only about 60 centimeters high. This then branches out at regular intervals under gully shafts.

It can be assumed that Joe “more and more lost his bearings in this system and could no longer find an exit,” the officials said. This is also indicated by a first statement by the boy himself. This version is also supported by the results of a search for clues with a robot in the sewer system.