A man feared by police to have been murdered has been found living in woods, almost five years after he disappeared amid fears he was being exploited.
The last confirmed sighting of Ricardas Puisys, now 40, was on 26 September 2015 at his workplace, 20 miles from where he lived in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. He unexpectedly failed to return to work two days later and in November of that year police launched a murder investigation. The following month a man was arrested on suspicion of his murder before being released without charge.
However, hopes that he might be alive were raised when a Facebook account was set up in his name and photographs were posted of a man police believed to be Puisys. In November last year officers relaunched an appeal to find him and in December they said they had received several reports of sightings of him.
On Monday, police said that Puisys had been found in hiding on 1 July in Wisbech. Officers believe that he fled because of fears for his safety. In August 2015, shortly before he disappeared, a local resident raised concerns that Puisys was being exploited and may have been forced to move addresses within Wisbech against his will.
DCI Rob Hall from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire major crime unit said: “For almost five years Ricardas’s disappearance has been a complete mystery. That was until we received information at the end of June, which led us to finding him.”
Puisys was working at Nightlayer Leek Company in Chatteris through an agency at the time of his disappearance. After work, on the evening of 26 September 2015 he was believed to be in the company of a small group of Lithuanian men, but all trace of him vanished from that moment.
Hall said: “There were genuine concerns Ricardas came to harm that evening … but we now believe Ricardas made the decision to run away as he had been a victim of crime, having previously been subject to exploitation.
“A team of investigators worked tirelessly following up a number of inquiries, none leading to the discovery of Ricardas. That was until we received information that Ricardas may have been alive and still in the Wisbech area.
“Following a search of wooded area in Harecroft Road, Ricardas was eventually found living in undergrowth, very well concealed after having deliberately hidden and having not spoken with anyone for some time.”
He said the decision to delay publicly announcing that Puisys had been found alive had been taken for his welfare and to allow time to put safeguarding measures in place. He added officers wanted “to ensure he remains safe, but also to ensure he gets the support he needs after having lived through extremely difficult circumstances during the last five or more years”.
When police discovered the Facebook account, they said it was being accessed from somewhere in Wisbech but they had been unable to pinpoint an exact location.
After the local resident raised concerns about Puisys in August 2015, officers spoke to Puisys but he told them he was fine according to Cambridgeshire Live. However, police later said that because he did not have much money, few friends and no family in the country, he had “the type of character that was vulnerable to exploitation”.
Hall said an investigation into exploitation of Puisys has been launched.