Missing Wisbech man presumed murdered tells of how he lived in woods for five years eating discarded take-aways
A man believed murdered lived in fear for his life for five years in a dilapidated shed in woods, while police conducted a major manhunt for his supposed killer.
The incredible story of Lithuanian-born Ricardas Puisys, who disappeared in Wisbech in 2015 was revealed in an episode of Channel 4’s 24 Hours in Custody on Monday night.
The programme’s team followed Cambridgeshire’s Major Crime Unit as they investigated what they believed was his murder until a breakthrough in 2019 led officers headed by Superintendent Adam Gallop, to re-evaluate the case and into thinking he was still alive.
Footage from the show sees Supt Gallop discuss his fears for Ricardas, who was 35 at the time of his disappearance and his conviction that he was leading a murder investigation.
DS Mark Devine also spoke of his belief that Ricardas had been murdered on the night of his disappearance in September 2105.
Officers had evidence from witnesses that Ricardas had been seriously assaulted on the night, with one witness describing how he had seen him repeatedly beaten and stabbed in the head with keys.
They interviewed the man who was said to have carried out the attack who calmly told officers that if had committed murder he was unlikely to still be “sitting” in Wisbech.
But then in the summer of 2018 a Facebook page emerged set up in Ricardas’ name - it flummoxed officers who were not sure what to believe.
Was it Ricardas himself who set it up, or was it some kind of sick joke aimed at wounding his family and set up by his killer?
It led the team to Osnabruck in Germany and a meeting with Ricardas’s sister Renata, who had been contacted by a man she firmly believed was her brother via messenger.
The mystery for the team deepened, but in the chats with his sister Ricardas said he was still living in Wisbech and was camped out in woodland.
The investigation also discovered that the person who had set up the Facebook page was regularly logging on using wifi at the Asda supermarket in Wisbech.
A stake out had officers spotting, and then losing track of a man just as the phone being used to access the Facebook account came online.
Searches of the garden of a derelict house close to the store produced nothing, a search of the nearby woods, and Wisbech General Cemetery also failed to find Ricardas.
But then in woodland close to Asda a late night search on July 1 2020 finally produced the result officers had feared impossible.
With the words from one officer confirming: “We’ve got him, we’ve got him.”
Ricardas was found alive and well. The programme shows him emerging from his hiding place - a makeshift leanto attached to a dilapidated shed, constructed to convince anyone who stumbled across the building that it was abandoned.
It cuts to him sat looking horribly bemused in a police car, clutching a copy of one of the many posters put up around the town in a bid to find him.
DS Devine talks to the programme’s team and says: “I thought I might have feelings of anger as we had spent five years searching for him, but all I had was a feeling of euphoria. Not many people get to meet a ‘murder’ victim and speak to him.”
Supt Gallop was equally delighted by the outcome: “There was an overwhelming sense of relief for his family, but more particularly for him. In those five years he was never far from our minds. It is closure, and it is hugely satisfying.”
As the programme reached its climax Ricardas tells his story. He tells of the night of his disappearance when he was beaten and how he managed to escape from a property in Canon Street, where it had always been believed he was murdered.
He explains how he had travelled to this country with the help of a friend but had got caught up with people who exploited him. They took his passport and driving licence, escorted him to collect his wages, taking a cut and accused him of owing money.
Ricardas stayed hidden because he feared for his life as he had heard a story of a man who had been forced to dig his own grave. For five years he spoke to no one, he lived on discarded take aways and only came out of hiding at night.
Now he is receiving counselling, he has been relocated and helped to rebuild his life.
The man originally interviewed for allegedly killing Ricardas has himself disappeared, and a European arrest warrant has been issued for him.
Watch this incredible story on catch up on All 4.