An 8-year-old boy who went missing for over a week has been found alive in the sewer system near his home in northwestern Germany, police said.
The boy, identified only as Joe, went missing on June 17, prompting a huge search operation. But following a tip from a member of the public who heard sounds from beneath the street, police in Oldenburg found him under a manhole cover eight days after he disappeared.
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"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," police said in a statement released Tuesday.
"The police have ruled out third-party negligence at this point in time."
Despite being "completely undressed," the boy didn't have any serious injuries but was severely hypothermic and dehydrated, police said.y lost his bearings in the system and could no longer find an exit."
After apparently climbing along the pipe for 23 meters (75 feet), police said he followed the sewer system through a plastic pipe with a diameter of just 60 centimeters (23.6 inches). Some of his clothes were found in this pipe.
The boy was able to move through sewer shafts and junctions to reach the area under the manhole cover where he was found.
At one point, officers launched a homicide investigation after receiving a tip that the boy had been seen in the company of an unknown person, which later proved false.
As for Joe, he remains in the hospital and is receiving treatment but hasn't yet been able to tell the police his full story in detail.