Being a college student, it is very rare I have free time during the week between classes, extracurricular activities and my weekend fun, but I decided I want to dedicated one day a week to writing something interesting.
Call me a freak, but I have noticed when I do find some down time, I catch myself surfing Netflix for the next best documentary on crime or disappearances. I'm not sure if it is because I started watching Criminal Minds at such a young age, or if I have a hidden passion for justice to be served, but shows like Forensic Files and the Aileen Wuornos case have always caught my attention more.
...I mean let's be real, everyone loves a bone chilling cold case. Well, maybe love isn't the best word but you get the idea.
Recently, as I was scrolling on Facebook, a video popped up that caught my eye. It was a short five minute video explaining the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay. I was so invested in how crazy the case was, I decided to do my own research.
So today, were are going to talk about the unsettling and interesting case of Nicholas Barclay.
Nicholas Patrick Barclay was not your average thirteen-year-old boy. He was born on December 31st, 1980 to Beverly Dollarhide. He had an older sister Carey and an older brother Jason, making Nicholas the youngest of the family. They resided in a small house in San Antonio, Texas, where Nicholas had a reputation for being 'trouble.'
Don't get me wrong, teens are known for the worst years of your life and to rebel against every rule, but Nicholas was different. He was never seen as a good kid through any of his peers. He had a history of physical and verbal abuse towards his mother. Police had been called multiple times from neighbors hearing screaming from their house. He skipped school more times than he attended, and when he was there, he was usually in trouble. Being so young, Nicholas already had a juvenile criminal record from threatening his teachers, stealing a pair of shoes, and breaking and entering into a convenience store.
He even managed to get three very illegal tattoos (WHAT) given to him from friends around his age with a un-sterilized needle.
On June 13th, 1994 Nicholas was last seen playing basketball in his neighborhood with friends. Nicholas called home for a ride, but his mother was asleep because she worked late hours at night. Nicholas's brother, Jason, refused to wake her up and told Nicholas to walk home. Nicholas never returned that day.
With Nicholas's bad reputation in everyone's mind, even the authorities initially believed that Nicholas had left on his own accord because he had ran away a number of times, but never stayed away for more than a day. He also had a court hearing the next day determining weather he was to stay at home, or be sent to a rehabilitative group home for his juvenile crimes. Authorities chalked it up to him being scared, or running away from the law again and were very slow to respond.
When it was clear Nicholas wasn't returning home anytime soon, the investigation finally took off. Police assumed it would be easy to find him in a large crowd because he was last seen wearing purple pants and a bright pink school bag, but as the search went on, they realized Nicholas was further than they believed.
His mother, Beverly Dollarhide believed that her son may have taken a ride from a stranger, as he had no fear of anyone.
One thing that police found odd was around three months later, Nicholas's older brother Jason, made a call to police stating that Nicholas was breaking into their garage, but when the police arrived, they found no attempts of forced entry and that Nicholas must have run away when he realized he was spotted. When Police searched the neighborhood they found no signs of Nicholas being there and believed Jason may have been lying. The question that left police puzzled was, why would he lie about something like that?
Three Years Later...
As time went on, the investigation slowed down and the family began to believe they would never see their little boy again. However, in October of 1997, three years after Nicholas vanished, Police in San Antonio received a call they never thought they would receive. A man that worked in a youth center in Linares, Spain stated that Nicholas Barclay was in their care, and that he was alive and healthy. The explanation was that he had been kidnapped and taken into a child sex ring operation run by high-ranking European military officials, but managed to escape.
Police explained that he had been severely abused for the past three years, was subjected to 'experiments,' and forced to speak french only.
As soon as police told the family the news, his sister, Carey immediately jumped on a plan and flew to Spain to identify him. Shocked, and nervous when his sister arrived, Nicholas refused to leave the room. He feared she wouldn't recognize him and would make him stay in Spain. However, with a baseball cap on and sun glasses, his sister still identified him as her brother.
For over an hour Carey and Nicholas sat together looking through old family photos trying to get an emotional response from him, as she was told he lost almost all memory of his previous life. As time went it seemed as though his memory was returning with Nicholas even asking if, "Grandpa was still an asshole."
Despite knowing certain things, Nicholas was extremely quiet. His sister wasn't phased by this and assumed it was because of the years of torture he endured.
The final step before Nicholas could return to his family, friends, and old life, was to make sure he was really who he said he was. Police arranged family photos that he had never seen before, but taken of people he knew, and had to identify who they were.
Making one small mistake, Nicholas was put on a flight back home to reconnect with his family.
The only problem was, he wasn't Nicholas Barclay.
How is that possible!?
The Barclay family was overjoyed that their son was returning home, but there was many inconsistencies with the story. To start, Nicholas was a blonde hair, blue-eyed boy. The man returning from Spain had dark hair and brown eyes. Nicholas claimed that the people behind the sex ring had conducted experiments on him and chemically changed his eye color (WHAT?) and dyed his hair to make him unrecognizable. The family, just happy to have their son home believed him, but the authorities weren't too keen on the story.
Questions were circling all around the neighborhood. How could he have gotten to Spain without a passport? Is it possible to chemically change your eye color? How is his accent different? But the Barclay family closed their ears and continued to try and make their son comfortable again.
Investigators and even distant family members had a hard time believing the story.
Wait, WHAT? Yes you read that right. The man that came home to the family was actually Frederic Pierre Bourdin, a 23-year-old French Citizen and notorious con artist. Frederic had up to 500 different identities, blaming it on being raised without love or affection. A private investigator cracked the case by comparing their ears! Pretty cool huh, turns out our ears our as unique as our finger tips.
It still shocks me to see that Fredric made it all the way to America, I mean COME ON, they have nothing alike.
After the investigator discovered that they were two different people, the Barclay family STILL insisted that he was Nicholas and even tried to keep him as their own. This baffled investigators, why would they want a stranger in their home? Was it a way to cope with the feelings of losing their son.. or was it something else? And where is the real Nicholas?
Frederic's Own Theory
Frederic was just as baffled as everyone else when it came to the family still believing he was Nicholas even after the news broke out that he was an imposter. The family was wholeheartedly convinced that he was their son and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Frederic claimed that when he returned home, the only person he had yet to meet was his 'brother' Jason. He said that everyone else gave him endless hugs and seemed to really be convinced that he was who he said he was, except Jason.
Frederic said that "When he came to see me, he didn't look at me like Nicholas. He didn't PRETEND to look at me like Nicholas. And he said 'Good luck' to me and left." Investigators claimed that their view on the family had shifted severely from 'grieving' to 'suspicious'. How does a family not know who their own son was and there was no one in their right mind who would consciously and knowingly let a complete stranger in their home...unless there was something they knew that police didn't.
"They knew I was not Nicholas," Bourdin said, "They didn't believe a word that I said. But they were good at not showing it. I remember in Spain, Carey did everything for me. When I didn't know something, she told me. That's the house we used to live in. That's my daughter, your niece. Do you remember that? Remember that, remember that, remember that, over and over again. She wanted to put it in my head so I would never forget. She couldn't say that I wasn't her brother. Did she believe it or not? If you ask me, no. She did not believe for a second that I was her brother. She decided that I was going to be her brother."
As investigators continued to watch the family, they noticed that the phone call Jason had made in September of 1994 was not too uncommon. Police explained that it is a tactic to convince police that someone may still be alive.
Bourdin claimed, "They killed him. Some of them did it, some of them knew about it, and some of them choose to ignore it." He was constantly worried that Nicholas would come home and his cover would be blown, but after spending days with the family, he realized he didn't have to worry about that anymore.
Before any large steps could be taken in the investigation, Jason was found dead, from a drug overdose which some people believed to be intentional. The case grew cold. Their prime suspect was dead and there was not enough evidence to bring the case to court. It was suspected that foul play was involved, but to this day, we still don't know the full story of what happened to Nicholas Barclay, and we may never find out.
Bourdin did his time for the horrific crime and spent six years in prison. After his release, Bourdin continued to steal other peoples identities and was in and out of prison for a couple of years before finally settling down, getting married and having children.
Unfortunately, this case has no good answers, or a happy ending. Unless the real Nicholas is found, or returns home, we will never know the real story of what happened to him.
To learn more about Nicholas Barclays case, the documentary The Imposter is now streaming on YouTube and Netflix . It is told from Frederic's point of view and is definitely worth the watch!
I'd love to hear your opinions on the case, my writing and suggestions for more articles!
Thank you for reading.