'I lived in the woods' - Suspected murder victim reveals five year ordeal
- Credit: Channel 4
Ricardas Puisys was beaten, stabbed and, with blood pouring from his body, finally escaped his tormentor.
He undid the door of a house in Cannon Street, Wisbech, walked down the road, past Asda and took refuge in the woods.
There he stayed for five years, sleeping in a discarded tent, hidden by asbestos sheeting, living on scraps and foraging for food from discarded tins.
For years, police believed he had been murdered.
They flooded the town with posters and quizzed a suspect they believed may have murdered him.
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That was until detectives from the major crime unit, following up on fresh leads that he had restored his page on Facebook, found him.
“It was a feeling of euphoria,” said Det Sgt Mark Devine, one of the detectives involved in the murder hunt.
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The story was told for the first time on Monday on Channel 4 as part of their 24 Hours in Police Custody series.
‘The No Body Murder’ followed the hunt for Ricardas over several years, filming an interview with the suspected murderer and flying to Germany to witness detectives questioning his sister.
The principal suspect, a young Lithuanian, now has a European Arrest Warrant out for him in connection with modern-day human slavery allegations.
“Ricardas was absolutely desperate not to be discovered,” says Supt Adam Gallop, who headed the inquiry.
Ricardas, 41, described – through an interpreter – the events of the fateful night, September 24, 2015, when he fled.
“I tried to avoid meeting people,” he says. “Day time I would stay inside, mainly going out in the evening for a few hours.
"I was there for such a long time I lost my trust in everything.
“I did not want help from friends - I told myself what happens, happens.
“They'll either find me or they won’t.”
Supt Gallop said it was “extraordinary he lived where he lived for so long, remaining healthy and undetected”.
He said the story reminded him of the 1970s when he was growing up and read about Japanese soldiers who had been living in the jungle since the end of the Second World War, not knowing the war ended in 1945.
"I don’t know what affected him psychologically to make himself a prisoner in the woods,” he said.
Supt Gallop remains anxious to investigate whether Ricardas was a victim of modern-day slavery.
“We may never know the ins and outs; we need to establish what he has been a victim of,” he said.
Ricardas, during his police interview, described how he came to the Fens.
“I came to the UK through a friend who found me a job and a place to live.
“Everything was fine. After a while I met the people who set me up.
“This one time they were partying I was accused of stealing one pound. I said, 'I didn’t take that pound'.
“Out of nowhere 'bash, bash'; he hits me with a barbecue.
“When he stopped hitting me, he said I owed him £1,000.
"This one time he pushed me into a basement, he said, 'you'll sleep here for the night'; he shut the door and locked it.
“I sat there and I don’t know for how long.”
Ricardas described how he and his ‘minder’ would always go together to collect his wages.
"He would take some for himself; he took my bank card and passport.
He told me: ‘you owe me more than £1,000 now'.
“I was just staring; I didn’t know what to say, from where to what, to who, and what to do.”
He added: “They told me stories where he and his friends forced a guy to dig his own grave.”
On the night he broke free, Ricardas said his minder was “drunk, he was high. He had a bunch of keys in his hand; he was playing with them .
“Then he hit me with those keys in my head. Blood was pouring out.”
Ricardas said he was “threatening me with a knife and saying ‘where do you want me to stab you?’
“There was an aluminium pole in the wardrobe for the hangers – he started hitting me with that pole; it was painful and I could not stand up.
“He told me to go downstairs and get a cloth – and clean the blood. I could barely stand.”
But Ricardas did, and managed to walk downstairs.
“I turned round to the door and – I didn’t know where to go. I turned left and there was a little park.
“I went to the park and hid in the bushes. And then I lived in the woods for five years.”
Ricardas described finding a tent someone had left behind and he slept in it.
"I was there all winter. Then I found that place in the woods and stayed there.”
The programme revealed that Ricardas was tracked down via a mobile phone. Ricardas said he found the phone and began using it.
It was then his Facebook profile was resumed – and his sister confirmed that through the brief messages she had exchanged, she knew it was him.
Police discovered Ricardas was using a Wi-Fi signal from Asda and worked out the radius from which it could be used.
It was then they focused in on the woods and discovered him.
Ricardas was re-housed and settled elsewhere after his discovery.
Eight years after a police operation uncovered the scale of modern-day slavery in Fenland, a conference in Wisbech was told earlier this year that it is “not going to go away on its own.”
Rosmini Centre manager Anita Grodkiewicz said: “Exploitation of vulnerable people – modern slavery – is happening in Fenland.”