They Thought Their Missing Son Had Returned, but No One Could Prepare Them for What Actually Happened
Every year, thousands of people go missing. And when it comes to children, timing is everything. In this story, a young teen vanishes out of thin air and isn’t seen for almost three years. When he is found, it’s far, far away from home. But when he reunites with his family, they find out a startling truth- something they could have never dreamed up even if they wanted to. This is the story of Nicholas Barclay.
Nicholas Barclay Vanishes
In 1994, 13-year-old middle school student Nicholas Barclay disappeared, seemingly without a trace, near his San Antonio home on June 13th. The young boy went to a basketball game with his friends at a nearby park but never returned home. You see, his parents hadn’t immediately reported him as a missing person because Nicholas was a troubled young man.
He had an upcoming court hearing on June 14th and his parents thought that he was just trying to skip out on it. This hearing would determine whether the young man would be sent off to a home for juvenile delinquents, or whether he would get to stay with mother. But this wasn’t a case of a young man trying to outrun the law. It would soon become one of the most talked-about missing person’s cases in the country.
How It All Began
Nicholas Barclay was at his home when his friends invited him out to play some basketball. Not having anything else to do, the thirteen-year-old obliged and went to a nearby neighborhood park. All was going well and the boys were having fun, but it was soon time to go home. Nicholas, decided to call his home and ask for a ride because he was so tired from exerting himself.
When he called, it was his uncle Jason, and not his mother, Beverly who has picked up the phone. Jason told the young boy that his mother was sleeping after a tough night shift and that he would not wake her up just to give him a ride. Instead, he suggested that Nicholas take a cool walk home, as he had done many times before. With no choice, Nicholas began to walk home- a destination he would never arrive at because something was about to go horribly wrong.
Nicholas Barclay’s Layers
Nicholas Barclay was as sweet and innocent-looking child, as much as any young boy of thirteen could be. But he was the youngest of his mother’s children and needed more attention than his family could give. Often, he felt lonely and his desire to be doted up evolved and the young boy started lashing out. He soon got a reputation for his behavioral problems and was labeled a “difficult youth.”
He would often find himself in trouble at school, with his friends as well as his teachers. He was known for having a very bad temper and a short fuse and this all caused him to clash with his mother, who worked night shifts at a store and was also rumored to have a problem with drug abuse.
Stay Away From Nicholas
Soon enough, the young teen’s reputation was so bad that several families forbade their children from playing with or even talking to him. It caused him to lash out even more, which made it virtually impossible for his single mother, Beverly Dollarhide, to control and even speak to him.
At her wit’s end, Beverly invited her brother Jason to come live with her and Nicholas, in the hope that having a male figure in the house would inspire the boy to get his act together. But no one would be able to predict the events that would unfold shortly after Uncle Jason had moved in.
He Never Showed Up
After the basketball game, when Nicholas was told to walk home by his uncle, he did just that. But he never made it home. His mother and uncle were not too worried in the start because this was not the first time the teen had disappeared and not said a word- in fact, he had done this several times already.
This time, there was a good reason that he might have disappeared because of his hearing. But soon enough, worry began to consume the mother and she had the feeling that something bad had happened to her child. And so, she called the authorities.
Reasons For Running Away
In addition to the court hearing scheduled to take place the following day, police also questioned Beverly and asked her if there was any tension in the house, and if she and Nicholas had a disagreement which could have caused the teen to not want to return home, as he had done so many times before. Beverly revealed that there was.
She told the police officers that shortly before her son went missing, that the two had a very heated argument about some items that Nicholas had stolen. She had confronted him about the pair of sneakers and threatened him with a juvenile detention home, a place he would be sent to if the hearing didn’t go as he has planned. With this information, the police assured Beverly that all was well and that her son was just acting out, as he often did.
But Something Was Wrong…
All the times that Nicholas had run away previously, the 13-year-old had never spent more than a day away from his home- no matter how angry he was. So, with each passing day that Nicholas had not returned home, Beverly grew more and more concerned that something had actually happened to her son.
The police were called again and because more than 48 hours had passed, they took the young boy’s absence more seriously. They searched the house, including Nicholas’s room and found some very telling clues. For one, Nicholas had not left with any packed clothes or even a backpack. He left all his belongings, including his favorite toys when he left for the court. Beverly also told officers that she knew her son had no more than $5 in his possession. The police saw that there were no signs that the child had planned to disappear and called in the experts.
With the searching of Nicholas Barclay’s room, one thing was clear- that the boy had vanished without a trace. The police called investigators in and soon, the Nicholas Barclay case was a missing person’s case. And as with most missing person’s cases, especially those that involved children, the investigators knew that they were fighting a difficult enemy, time.
They tried all they could but made very little progress. What they found out only made room for more questions that were left unanswered. And by the time the most critical period had passed, there were no important leads that could be followed.
Things Were Looking Grim
There were many signs that things were not looking too good when it came to the Nicholas Barclay case. For one, the teen was missing for quite some time now. Two, investigating had given no good leads and the police were helpless. Three, the teen only had $5, which would mean that it wouldn’t last very long if more than one day. And four, there was absolutely no sign of Nicholas since the day he left the basketball game.
On that day, the teen was wearing a bright pink backpack and a pair of purple pants, but even with such an eye-catching outfit on, it was not enough for one person to spot him and see where he could have disappeared to. Things looked grim and many people had a feeling that Nicholas would never be seen again. But that wasn’t the case.
Finally, An Appearance
Just when everyone was starting to lose hope, thinking that the young boy would never be spotted again, someone saw him and it was a family member. Jason, the man that Beverly had called in to help out with her son reported that he had, in fact, saw Nicholas and police could not believe what his uncle said he was caught doing.
When Jason saw Nicholas, he was in the process of breaking into the family’s garage. But as soon as his uncle saw him and called out, the young boy fled. This gave the family some hope and soon, the police were called in again to investigate the matter.
When Nicholas’s uncle called in, the police searched the town with renewed vigor. Reports claim that they set out immediately and left no stone unturned when looking for the boy along with more clues. Uncle Jason’s account was all they had and they used it to do as much as they could, with the little they were given.
Unfortunately, Uncle Jason’s sighting was not enough and the police were soon led to another dead end. In fact, the trail had run so cold that the authorities believed that maybe Jason hadn’t seen his nephew after all; that it may have been another teen who just happened to look like him. Eventually, the case turned cold again.
All Hope Is Gone
After a while, the family started to think that Nicholas had just vanished out of thin air. While some were hopeful that he would return, it was hard to stay positive when nothing was being or could be done. The police had reached so many dead ends that asking them to reopen the case would seem like a cruel joke, on both the family and the department.
So as the months began to slip away, hope faded. The leads were non-existent and there was not a sighting of the young man since his disappearance, beyond what his uncle had said. Nicholas Barclay, it would seem, was destined to stay missing. And when the months turned into years, most forgot about the young Texan.
Three Years Later
The TelegraphThree years had gone by since the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay. The young man would have been 16 years old now and would have still been attending high school and doing things that young, troublesome boys do. But it was not to be. In the three years, no one had heard a word about Nicholas, until one day, when a call from overseas came in that would rock his family’s world.
Law enforcement in America got a call from officials in Spain that a boy by the name of Nicholas Barclay had been located in their country. The police were stunned! Just how could a sixteen-year-old make his way from Texas to Spain, without a passport and only $5 in his pocket. They wanted to learn more, so they looked into the call and the mysterious boy claiming to be Nicholas Barclay.
Could It Be Nicholas?
]The police had questions about the caller and did not fail to make them known. The caller explained that a boy who looked to be 16, the same age Nicholas would have been, was found in a very small Spanish village. They went on to say that the young boy was scared and huddled in a phone box at the time he was found.
Soon after, he was brought to a shelter for youth, where it was found out that he had been put through crimes so heinous, that the caller did not want to go into detail. But because of the nature of the case, they had to, and thus, the young man’s tale was told.
]The first and most important thing that law enforcement wanted to know was what had happened to Nicholas Barclay three years ago, after that fateful basketball match. The caller explained that the teen had been kidnapped shortly after embarking on his trip him, right out of his neighborhood. They continued by saying that he was brought to Europe.
Once in the new land, young Nicholas was said to have been sold into a human trafficking ring, where he was abused numerous times and daily, too. He was eventually able to escape his captors and fled the location to try to find safety, which is when he happened upon the phone box where he was found.
The Police’s Decision
]The American police officers were more than shocked when they heard what had happened to the young man. They were outraged and also in disbelief at what took place and what such a young child had experienced in just three years. But they also had to make sure that it was really Nicholas that they were in contact with.
So, they used one of the missing person’s poster to find out if it could be a match. And when they did their investigation, they found that the boy who had been found in Spain was indeed Nicholas Barclay. The police, who had decided to keep the call under wraps until they could get confirmation, soon told the family the good news. They were dumbfounded, but also extremely happy that their kin had been located and that he was finally safe from his tormentors.
A Family Bands Together
]When the family found out that Nicholas, who had been gone for just over three years had been found in a village in Spain, had been located, they did not have much money. And even though they were happy about the good news they were still skeptical that the person calling might not be their family member.
Carey Gibson was Nicholas’s older sister and the only person capable of making the trip, even though she had never left the country before. The two had a special relationship and it would be easiest for her to tell whether it was her brother or not. But the money to make the trip was still not available. Carey’s workplace, who had heard of the remarkable story decided to fund it and gifted her with a two-way ticket. With that, the young lady was off to Spain.
The First Encounter
]Carey was anxious the entire trip over to a place she had never been and when she first got a glimpse of the young man who was supposed to be her brother, she found him waiting for her, timid and shy, wrapped up in a scarf and wearing a baseball hat.
She did not hesitate. The older sister ran towards her brother and threw her arms around him. They embraced for a little while and once she got a good look at him, she confirmed to everyone that the young man was her missing brother, Nicholas Barclay. Everyone cried because of how unbelievable the tale was and because a young man was finally going home. But those would not be the last tears shed by this family, and the next time, the reason would be anything but good.
Gaps In His Memory
]Carey spent some time with her brother at the youth center. The two got to know each other again and went over several family albums together. But all was not well with Nicholas. It soon became clear to Carey, through trying to reacquaint Nicholas with everyone by photos, that there were more than a few holes in his memory. It just was not intact.
But the older sister understood what her brother had gone through. She understood that it had been some time since he saw his family members and that the things he went through could have affected his memory, even of the ones he loved. So the two bonded while they waited for Nicholas’s new documents to be created. He got a new passport with his name on it and the two flew back home to Texas.
]While Nicholas and Carey were in the air, plans were being made by the Barclay family to welcome their the young boy back home. And everyone with the exception of Uncle Jason crowded the airport to see him for the first time in so many years. Luckily, he was well received by everyone and they finally felt like a missing piece had been given back to them.
Until Nicholas’s return, no one had touched his bedroom; they left it exactly as it was in the hope that one day he would make his way home again. And he did. When he first came back, he was just as quiet and timid as Carey had found him in Spain. The family, who heard what happened while he was gone was sympathetic and gave him the room he needed to breathe and settle in. But outsiders who knew the kind of person Nicholas was started noticing a few things about the young man that just did not sit right with them.
He Looked Different
]Those who knew Nicholas as a child reported that he had bright blue eyes, beautiful blonde hair and a distinguishable gap between his front teeth. Even at thirteen, the teen already had tattoos, much to his family’s dismay and they included a “J” on his left shoulder, and “L” and “N” on his outer left ankle and a cross on his right hand.
But there was more. Not only were these features missing, but the young man also looked totally different. His eyes, as well as his hair, were different- two things that the family ignored because people change in appearance as they age. But outsiders believed that too much had changed- that there were some things about this new Nicholas that just did not make sense.
He Sounded Different
]There was more than just the physical changes in Nicholas that did not make sense. Changes that the family would not be able to ignore for long, no matter how badly they wanted their Nicholas back. And it would begin with his accent. The young boy they had found in Spain spoke with a French accent- something people could not understand seeing as how he was only gone for three years.
But young Nicholas explained that he had picked up the language while he was in Europe. He said that he was almost forced to learn the language because the people who held him captive had a rule that forbade him from speaking any English at all.
]When he was questioned about the changes in his appearance, he had a reason for those things too. He said the trafficking ring that had picked him up never intended for him to be found. And to do that, they would have to change his appearance.
The young man said that not only was his hair chemically altered, but so were his eyes. In an effort to hide him, even though he was on another continent, they made him look different. His family never questioned his identity and backed his story 100%, even when people doubted it.
Readjusting to Life in the United States
]As time passed, Nicholas got used to living in the States with his family. His family wanted his life to be as normal as possible and thought that he should be around kids his age. So, they enrolled him in high school, hoping that it would bring the boy out of his shell, but not to the point where he misbehaved, like before.
But he didn’t misbehave. In fact, this new version of Nicholas was nothing like the old one. He didn’t act out, he had no anger issues and got along fine with everyone. His family was pleased and attributed this change in attitude to all the horrendous things that had happened to the youth during the three years he was gone.
The Media Digs In
]In an effort to keep things normal, the family also tried to shield Nicholas from the media. But with such an amazing story, how could one not want to hear about it? So, the media continued to poke and prod, asking questions to whoever would answer and sharing their own versions of what they thought happened.
The interviews his family allowed him to do were played constantly on news stations, even months after Nicholas was found. And it would be one of those very interviews that brought forth a nasty and disturbing truth that nobody in the Barclay family could have ever imagined.
Private Investigator Charlie Parker
]Most of the investigations had stopped during the years that Nicholas was gone, what with the lack of leads and zero evidence. But a few decided to take another look when the young boy appeared as mysteriously as he had vanished, and one of those people was an investigator by the name of Charlie Parker.
He was just as mystified by the case as most members of law enforcement and decided that a look into the case could not hurt. But he could not have been wrong. What he was about to find out would hurt everyone involved in this drama, and in more ways than one.
The Last Interview…
]Charlie wanted to dig deeper than most people had. He somehow found a way to get through to the family, in a way that most people had not and received their permission to have a recorded interview from different members of the family, including the man of the hour, Nicholas himself.
The story mystified him and he was prepared to dissect it as respectfully as he could. So, he showed up at the Barclay home with a camera crew, who were filming for the TV show Hard Copy, ready to understand what had really gone down. He stood by the sidelines and looked and it was as he watched the events play out before him that he noticed something about the entire situation that brought on a sense of dread.
]Charlie took everything in as he watched Nicholas Barclay answer the questions that were prepared by the interviewee. It took place in the living room and the investigator noticed everything, including a picture of Nicholas that was taken just before the boy disappeared. And although Charlie wasn’t one of the non-believers of what had happened to the teen, seeing the picture changed his mind right away.
Charlie was captivated by the picture of the younger version of Nicholas. He looked at the young man that was right before him when a sinking feeling took hold of him. He saw the difference between the 13-year-old and the 16-year-old, but there was one thing in particular that he could not look away from. It would be a realization that would change everything for the family.
A Specific Body Part
]Charlie, although in shock from what he was seeing, managed to pull himself together and walk over to the cameraman and ask him to do him a favor. Charlie asked him to “zoom in on his ears.” The cameraman did as requested and the truth lay right before Charlie’s eyes- that the man being questioned had ears that were unlike the ones of the boy in the picture. The investigator instantly knew that something was wrong. Time and experience had taught him that the ears were one place on the body that doesn’t change drastically, if at all, with age.
This fact, coupled with all the other noticeable difference that people saw between the new and old Nicholas, ideas rushed back to Charlie. He remembered the different accent, the eye and hair color, the behavioral difference and more. It was enough for Charlie to want to do something about it, so he asked the court to run the young man’s fingerprints and to see if there was a match with the DNA that was on record- something that the Barclay family had refused to do before. But the detective made it happen, and the results shocked everyone but him.
He Was NOT Nicholas Barclay
]It had been months since the Barclay family had gotten the fateful call that their teen family member was found, and now, everything was at risk because of a DNA sample. They had welcomed the young boy with open arms and now, they could lose it all again depending on what the results were. And the would soon be in.
When the identity test was returned to the family, they found out, much to their dismay, that the boy who had been living with them was NOT Nicholas Barclay. To say they were in shock would be a gross understatement. The young man living with them for almost half a year was not a relative, but some imposter, and it was time to find out who he was and just what he was doing living in their house as a member of their family.
Who Was He?
]When Charlie found out that his suspicions were right all along, it was a bittersweet feeling. He had just broken the hearts of many people, but he had revealed a lie to them as well. But he did not want to stop there. He felt like he owed it to the family to uncover the identity of the man who was posing as Nicholas Barclay. And that’s exactly what he did. With the help of authorities, they found out that the person staying under the Barclay roof was a French man by the name of Frederic Bourdin.
But there was more. Frederic Bourdin was not a teenager. He was 23 years old while he was posing as Nicholas, a whopping seven years older than the true age of the missing boy. Shock took hold of the family again and questions about Frederic’s motives and intentions were asked. But more than that, people began to wonder just how could a French stranger who looked almost nothing like Nicholas Barclay, trick his own family members into believing it was him.
Frederic Bourdin’s Confession
]When Frederic was asked how he managed to fool the family, the young imposter did not lie or shy away from his technique. Instead, he confessed everything to the family and authorities. The French man said that he had no idea who Nicholas was until a security guard said the two young men looked alike. Immediately, he got the idea to try to pass himself off as the teen but needed to do some work first. He said he gathered as much information as he could about Nicholas and slowly began changing the way he looked to look younger than his actual age of 23.
People could not believe that a stranger had managed to pull this off, and for an entire six months without being caught. But the French man admitted that there was one reason why the family accepted him right away and with open arms.
]At this point, family members, authorities and outsiders alike were all in disbelief. There was no way that this story could get any crazier, in their minds, but they were wrong. Despite how deceitful Frederic had been and although he was not at all trustworthy, he claimed that some members knew he wasn’t Nicholas from the start and went along with it anyway, and for a very dark and unimaginable reason.
Frederic Bourdin told police officers that one of Nicholas’s family members had killed the young man, and more than one of them knew. He told authorities that by playing along with his return as Nicholas, it would keep authorities off their tail and further away from the truth of the alleged murder. But the family vehemently denied this. They had a completely different reason as to why Frederic’s version of Nicholas was so easy to believe.
What’s The Truth?
]The family was disgusted that Frederic would try to insult them further after pretending to be one of them for six months. They denied his accusation and stated that the foreigner had come in and preyed on their family’s grief, trying to manipulate them with his twisted schemes. They made a joint statement that said that they had wanted their Nicky home so badly, that they let all the signs fly over their heads, choosing to believe their boy had returned.
At this point, accusation after accusation was flung from every direction. Authorities had no idea what the truth was. The only knew one thing, and it was that the man staying in the Barclay home was not Nicholas. As crazy as the story was, it was also heartbreaking for those who had genuinely believed that he had come home. It was like a second loss, and maybe this one hurt more than the first. Charlie Parker was still around as this all went down and again, decided to use his skills to determine what the truth was.
What Really Happened to Nicholas?
]Charlie Parker listened to every accusation that was flung by each party, but he zoomed in on one in particular. Despite not coming from the most reliable source, Charlie chose to investigate the allegation Frederic had made when he said that one of Nicholas’s family members had murdered the young boy. He opened his own investigation and armed with a few facts, he started to question the family again and had a special interest in Nicholas’s uncle, Jason.
But a few days after Charlie started his investigation on Jason, he died of a drug overdose. The police could not find any other clues to the real Nicholas Barclay’s whereabouts and the trail went cold, even though Charlie Parker had not yet given up. But the law had someone else to deal with: Frederic Bourdin.
The Prison Sentence
]Frederic Bourdin, after his confession, had no choice but to plead guilty to perjury and passport fraud. He was sentenced in 1998 and received six years in prison for his crimes. The ruling was almost three times what was suggested due to the nature of his acts and how much he hurt the Barclay family.
The years went by while Frederic served his sentence and when he finished, he returned home to France, where he did not turn over a new leaf. Instead, the impersonator did what he did best and continued using people’s identities to further himself in life. His habit of doing this revealed quite a bit about the con man.
Frederic Bourdin Strikes Again
]Far from finished with impersonating missing boys, Bourdin found another boy, this one younger (14 years old) than Nicholas, to impersonate in 2003. The young boy had been missing for seven years when Bourdin decided to be him. He was 30 years old when he pretended to begin the impersonation and was eventually ousted, again, by DNA testing. But again, he wasn’t quite done.
The following year, in 2004, Bourdin impersonated another young boy- the third that we know about. He pretended to be a Spanish teen by the name of Ruben Sanchez Espinoza, who had lost his mother when they were attacked in Madrid. When police found him out again, he was deported to France where he, again, attempted to pass himself off as another 15-year-old Spaniard. This time, his name was Francisco Hernandez-Fernandez. He was caught again and was finally put in prison. And there was still more.
A Serial Imposter Revealed
]All these crimes had police digging deeper into the man who just did not want to be himself, and what they found out shocked them all. The three or four occasions that were the most recent on Frederic Bourdin’s files were not the only ones in existence. In fact, authorities found out that Bourdin was notorious for this kind of thing and that he had spent most of his life impersonating others and living under their identities.
He was known by the nickname, “The Chameleon” and was said to have used at least 40 fake identities before he pretended to be Nicholas Barclay. He admitted to using even more, approximately 500, when he confessed. It turned out that he was also wanted by Interpol before he even tried to be the Texas teen. But it wouldn’t be his last role or the one that shocked us the most.
Frederic Bourdin Transformed
]Just about everyone who followed this story, which was turned into a documentary, kept an ear out for the latest Frederic Bourdin news. And everyone was shocked when they found out that despite the man’s criminal history, he found love and was married to a woman named Isabelle in 2007. The couple had five children together and Frederic promised to “never impersonate anyone again.”
He explained this his need to be someone else stemmed from a need he had to feel loved and to get attention, two things he had not gotten as a child. But even though he retired from his bad habits, he still made headlines for a completely different reason.
How It Ended
]Hollywood loves stories as wild as Frederic’s and it served as inspiration for many films and television episodes. Even though people aren’t quite sure how he managed to do what he did, it made good enough television and was replicated several times.
As for Nicholas Barclay, to this day authorities have no idea what happened to the teen. Some say his uncle murdered him, some think he started a new life and others think he got himself into trouble and was subsequently killed. The consensus, however, is that the young man, who would have been 39 years old today, is no longer alive.