Serial child imposter held by French police

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Monday, June 13, 2005

French police are holding a 31-year-old who managed to convince social workers and fellow students that he was a 15-year-old Spanish orphan and spent a whole month attending school. [1]

Frederic Bourdin's alias was discovered when a teacher watched a television program about his exploits and his numerous identities.

Claire Chadourne, headmistress at the College Jean-Monnet, said, "He seemed a little older than his classmates, two or three years at the most. But 31. I still can't believe it!"

Bourdin, who speaks at least five languages, told social workers and classmates that his name was Francisco Hernandez-Fernandez and that his parents had been killed in a car crash in 2000 and that he'd spent three months in a coma. He claimed that after being placed into foster care, he was sexually abused and that he escaped to France. [2]

He told his teacher that he had horrible scars that he wished to hide and was given special permission to wear a cap to hide his balding.

Bourdin is said to have assumed 39 other false identities in the past. [3]

In 1997, Bourdin was arrested and imprisoned for six years in the United States for posing a Texas couple's 14-year-old son, who disappeared three years earlier. He managed to convince the couple that he was their son even though he had brown eyes and a heavy French accent.

The couple's son had blue eyes.

Bourdin lived with the couple for three months before a journalist exposed him and his lies were confirmed by a DNA test.

Returning from the United States in 2003, Bourdin showed up in the southeastern Alps, where he claimed to be Leo Balley, who went missing in 1996 when he was seven-years-old and camping with his father.

Once again, a DNA test revealed his lies.

Bourdin said, "I have only usurped the identities of two disappeared children. Otherwise 99% of the names are completely made up." [4]

He says he assumes other identities as a way of receiving the attention he never got as a child.

Bourdin is slated to appear in court in September.