This is the moment police probing a missing farm worker’s murder found him alive in a woodland camp five years after he disappeared without a trace.
Lithuanian Ricardas Puisys had been sleeping rough for more than 1,600 days, all the while living in fear that his captors would track him down and kill him.
He hid himself away in a small patch of woodland near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and made ‘a well concealed’ home for himself in deep undergrowth off a residential street.
Shocking footage has now been released showing the moment detectives probing his disappearance found his makeshift hiding place in July 2020.
It captures their ‘euphoric’ shouts of ‘We got him!’ as Mr Puisys is escorted by officers from his dilapidated shelter, and reassured that he is safe before he is handed his missing persons poster.
Police were led to his location after his sister received messages from a Facebook account on a phone that had connected to the Wifi of a nearby Asda supermarket.
The police investigation discovered Mr Puisys, who is in his 40s and has since started a new life in another part of the country, had been coerced into a form of modern slavery by an associate with links to organised crime.
In police interviews he described being violently beaten by a man after he come to the UK for work, including one episode when he beat him in the head with a set of keys and another time with a barbeque. On another occasion Mr Puisys was locked in the basement overnight.
The man confiscated his passport and bank card, and would take money from his wages at the leek farm where Mr Puisys worked, insisting that the farm worker owed him thousands of pounds.
Mr Puisys claimed that the man worked as part of a gang who forced one individual to dig his own grave in a bid to terrify and control the victim.
Ricardas Puisys, from Lithuania, was discovered by police living in woodland in Cambridgeshire after going missing more than five years before
He had been hiding in a dilapidated shack and was found in July 2020 after police traced a Facebook account he was believed to have been using to the WiFi of Asda in Wisbeach
Six months later they discovered Mr Puisys who has been living for five years deep in woodland woods off Harecroft Road
His incredible discovery is being featured in a Channel 4 episode of 24 Hours in Police Custody to be broadcast on Monday
Modern slavery: How a coercive associate with links to organised cime forced Ricardas Puisys’ into hiding for five years
DCI Adam Gallop, who led the investigation into Ricardas Puisys’ disappearance, called his discovery a ‘tremendous relief’.
Police had recieved concerns over his welfare and that he was being exploited.
And police interviews have since heard that he was beaten, while his bank cards and passport were seized.
Considering his reasons for disappearing, he DCI Gallop said: ‘Up until the point of his disappearance he’s been in Wisbech for three or four years, he’s come over and worked in the agricultural sector in and around Wisbech.
‘He doesn’t speak great English, so he’s entirely reliant on other people.
‘He does get pushed around, he gets money taken off him and doesn’t have control of his finances.
‘He’s a victim of that coercive and controlling behaviour in a country where he does not have family, or friends, or any escape route.
‘I suppose it’s the natural fight or flight instinct, and his response has been to run off and hide.’
It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 people are living in modern slavery in the UK.
The shocking revelations have come to light in Mr Puisys’ interviews with detectives, which are being featured in an Channel 4 episode of 24 Hours in Police Custody.
DCI Adam Gallop, who led the investigation into his disappearance, described Mr Puisys as ‘keeping himself a prisoner in the woods’.
He told MailOnline: ‘It’s extraordinary to think that he has been living there entirely undetected so close to where all the [police] activity was taking place.
‘We contacted every police force, every local authority, every health authoritiy, over 250 hostels, 600 employment agencies, gangs – it is very hard to live without leaving a trace. But we were miles from him all the time.
‘When we found him there was a tremendous amount of relief. Then to consider how he has lived his life for five years is really quite sad really. As investigators you start thinking through five years thinking, ‘What did we do wrong to not find him sooner’.
Mr Puisys went missing in September 2015 from his work 20 miles away with detectives fearing he had been murdered. He was known to have left work at the Nightlayer Leek Company in Chatteris on September 26, and then joined a group of Lithuanian men in the evening.
But the alarm was raised when he failed to turn up for a shift two days later and his identification badge was found in a park.
Concerns for his safety had been raised the previous month when it was suggested he was being exploited, so a murder investigation was launched in November 2015. Extensive searches were carried out in an attempt to find a body.
A 31-year-old man from Wisbech was arrested in December 2015 on suspicion of murder and taken into custody, but later released with no further action. There is currently a European Arrest Warrant out for his arrest over allegations of modern slavery.
Describing the moment Mr Puisys fled in fear of his life, he told detectives: ‘He had a bunch of keys in his hand and he was playing with them, playing with them. Then he hit me with those keys in my head. Blood was pouring out and he was threatening me with a knife. He said: ‘Where do you want me to stab you?’’
Mr Puisys was then subjected to a savage beating with an aluminium pole pulled from a wardrobe.
‘It was very painful, I couldn’t stand up,’ he recalled in his police interviews. ‘He told me, ‘go downstairs, get a cloth and clean the blood’. I could barely stand and barley walk downstairs.
‘I turned around to the door and [ran]. I didn’t know where to go. I turned left, there was a little park. I went into the park and hid in the bushes.
‘And then I lived in the woods for five years. I found a tent, somewhere to sleep that someone had left behind and I was there all winter. Then I found that place in the woods and I stayed there. I was scared of being found again.’
Shocking footage from his interviews with police detectives are released for the first time where he describes the abuse he suffered
Mr Puisys went missing in September 2015 while working at a leek farm in Chatteris with detectives fearing he had been murdered after they recieved reports that he had been exploited
He was found by police in a location in woods nearby a cluster of houses in Wisbech (above)
Concerns for his safety had been raised the previous month when it was suggested he was being exploited, and a murder investigation was launched in November 2015
It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 people are living in modern slavery in the UK.
Mr Puisys’ tale of survival is a remarkable one. He scaveneged for food and kept warm by finding discarded clothing, something he said brought him great ‘shame’, and he even found a phone.
He avoided people and would stay inside his concealed shelter – a rustic hut with a lean to shelter behind, made from a sheet of asbestos – during the daytime. He would only go out for a few hours every evening.
Police decribed his concealed home as ‘something special forces would be proud of’ and were ‘amazed’ that he had been able to sustain and feed himself while staying healthy for five years.
‘He was absolutely desperate not to be discovered,’ one detective said upon coming across his make-shift shelter. ‘It’s extraordinary that he was able to live where he lived for so long.’
In 2019 his sister, who feared her brother was dead, recieved a strange Facebook message from someone claiming to be her missing brother. They talked, and she was convinced it was him by the details he shared of their family that no one else could know.
Detectives investigating his suspected murder reexamind the case more than 1,600 days on from his disappearance. They traced the Facebook account to a phone using the WiFi network of an Asda in Wisbech.
DCI Adam Gallop, who led the investigation into his disappearance, described Mr Puisys as ‘keeping himself a prisoner in the woods’
Six months later, after trying to convince Mr Puisys to seek help and reveal himself with the help of trained negotiators over Facebook mesenger, they discovered Mr Puisys who has been living for five years deep in woodland woods off Harecroft Road on July 1 in a dilapidated shanty.
DCI Adam Gallop said: ‘It is quite extraordinary when he goes into detail of how he survived. It’s a real old-fashioned hunter gathered existence. He keeps his head down during the day time and then at night he can go out and scavenge for food.
‘But he’s shaved, he’s smart, he’s looked after himself and maintained his dignity. But somehow mentally got himself into this routine that he can’t get out.
‘He was desperate. It very difficult to understand what that particular mind set is, but I think he felt completely helpless.
‘Up until the point of his disappearance he’s been in Wisbech for three or four years, he’s come over and worked in the agricultural sector in and around Wisbech. He doesn’t speak great English, so he’s entirely reliant on other people. He does get pushed around, he gets money taken off him and doesn’t have control of his finances.
‘He’s a victim of that coercive and controlling behaviour in a country where he does not have family, or friends, or any escape route. I suppose it’s the natural fight or flight instinct, and his response has been to run off and hide.’
Ricardas is receiving counselling and is starting a new life in another part of the country.
- The episode of 24 Hours in Police Custody airs on Monday 5th April at 9pm.