BERN, Switzerland – A German woman missing for 12 years has been found living in the woods on the outskirts of the Swiss capital with nothing more than an umbrella and tarpaulin for shelter, police said Monday.
The 52-year-old woman, whose name was undisclosed, appeared to be healthy after living in the simple shelter near the community of Bolligen for the past year.
Even the ranger who makes regular checks of the woods had failed to notice her before a hiker told police this month that he had seen a woman living there, said Juerg Mosimann, spokesman for the Bern police.
Bolligen's Mayor Rudolf Burger said he was told about the woman on Thursday and found her the next day in the makeshift tent she had constructed.
"She answered our questions and told us she didn't want any contact with her family," he said.
She conversed normally, but she also spoke of a mission that she had to fulfill, Burger added. He declined to elaborate.
Mosimann said it was unclear where the woman lived before she moved to the woods.
She is still living there, but the Bolligen Citizens Community that owns the woods will soon tell her she will have to leave, said community clerk Andreas Kohli.
"There's no point in waiting for months," Kohli said. "We are looking for an appropriate place for the woman in cooperation with the social services of Bolligen and the government of Bern."
The woman was reported missing in 1997 in a village near Potsdam, Germany, outside Berlin. She was identified with the aid of an information system shared by the 25 member nations of the so-called Schengen accord enabling passport-free travel in Europe.