Finding Nicholas: The Story of a Missing Boy and His Intelligent Imposter
In 1993, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay went out for a basketball game and never came back. After several years of a fruitless search, his family was elated to hear he had been found.
Even though the signs were there, it took a long while to discover that they had the wrong Nicholas. Someone was lying! But, how did this smart imposter fool everyone? Let’s find out!
The Missing Boy From San Antonio
On the 13th of June 1993, San Antonio law enforcement was alerted to a missing person situation regarding a young boy. His mom was frantic, and despite the repeated assurances from the officers that he would be found, she couldn’t stop being scared.
Nicholas wasn’t a stranger to law enforcement. He was well-known in the neighborhood for unfavorable reasons. Thus, the cops weren’t worried.
An Unhealthy Relationship With Police
Nicholas was a troubled teen who, at the tender age of 13, had become unpopular with the local law enforcement officers—he had already amassed multiple felonies in his records.
He was on the verge of getting sent to a group home when he went missing. His court hearing was slated for June 14th, barely four days after.
Nicolas Had a Violent Temper, Too
From a young age, Nicholas was quite a handful. He had a vicious temper that led him to physically abuse his mother on several occasions.
His older stepbrother, Jason, 20, was charged by Nicholas’s mom to keep the young lad in check. But he was just as uncontrollable and ill-tempered. As you can probably guess, his new authority led to more clashes and domestic disturbances.
Nicholas Had a Turbulent Upbringing
With the way Nicholas had turned out, even early on, one would be tempted to point the finger at his childhood—he had quite a rough and tough one.
Nicholas was raised by a single mother, Beverly Dollarhide, who had a handful of troubles on her plate too. She was a victim of substance abuse disorder.
His Mom Had Kids From A Previous Marriage
Beverly had three children to look after. Besides Nicholas, she had Jason and a daughter, Carey, from a previous marriage. Both were a lot older than Nick.
Over the years, the family found it hard to stay united and keep the peace. Beverly also worked the night shift at a convenience store that wasn’t too far away from her home.
The Child Stayed Away From Home for Days
After Nicholas failed to come home from the basketball game, his family was gripped with a dilemma. His mom found it difficult to believe that he had gone missing.
According to her, Nicholas had stayed away from home for at least a day in the past. So, deciding whether to report him missing or not wasn’t an easy decision. After three days, she called law enforcement.
Jason Was the Last Known Person Nicholas Spoke To
According to reports, Nicholas had a brief talk with Jason over the phone on the day he went missing. Nicholas wanted to see if his mom could come to pick him up after the game.
Jason informed Nicholas that their mom was asleep and that he had to walk home from the game—the basketball court was at least a mile away from home.
The Cops Were Optimistic of Nicholas’s Return
When the cops got wind of Nicholas’s three-day absence, they weren’t too bothered. Law enforcement officers who were aware of Nicholas’s brushes with the law and his scheduled court appearance were sure the boy was running from the law.
According to the officers, it was likely that Nicholas wanted to avoid being separated from his home. They believed he would be back a day or two after his court date.
What Was Nicholas Wearing on the Day He Went Missing?
Nicholas’s mom supplied police with what she believed was sufficient information about her missing son. Asides from his biological information, such as age, height, and blue eyes, she also described what he wore that fateful day.
Nicholas was dressed in purple pants and a white shirt. He also had a pink backpack. After a few more days with no sign of his whereabouts, the search for Nicholas began.
“Help Bring Me Home”
One of Nicholas’ missing person’s publications was captioned “help bring me home.” It had his headshot beside his information. His innocent, 13-year-old face would attract pity from anyone who saw it.
One can only imagine the agony of his family. Despite his behavior, they loved him unconditionally and would give the world to see him again.
Police Were Still Confident About Finding Nicholas
Usually, boys with the kind of history as Nicholas came home after several days of escapades. Even with his absence for about a week, the cops were sure that he was somewhere in the neighborhood.
However, his family thought differently. Nicholas didn’t leave home with extra clothes like someone who intended to abscond would. He also had just $5 on him. His family was extremely worried.
Sighted After Three Months?
Three months after Nicholas’s disappearance, the cops thought that they had had a breakthrough. His elder brother Jason called the department, declaring he had sighted Nicholas attempting to break into the garage.
Officers raced to the scene to get the boy. Unfortunately, they couldn’t meet him. According to Jason, Nicholas had run off before the cops arrived.
Losing the Grip On Hope
Days began to roll by after Nicholas’s disappearance. Eventually, days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years. Slowly, hope began to fade away. The cops got tired, and the search lamps went dark.
All the family had were theories. No one knew for sure if he had taken a hike out of town or stayed behind somewhere. At this point, the former seemed more likely—if he was still alive.
Nicholas’s Mom Receives a Phone Call From Spain
After three years without much hope of finding their son, the Barclays family got an unexpected reason to believe that Nicholas would be with them again. They received a phone call from Spain that Nicholas was still alive.
It was hard to believe and seemed too good to be true. Spain was far away, and on another continent. How could this be?
Discovered at a Train Station and Taken to a Shelter
As the saga continued, Nicholas was found wandering a train station in a tiny Spanish village. Later on, he was led to a nearby youth shelter in a part of the country called Linares.
It took weeks for the emotionally-scarred Nicolas to muster the courage to tell his story. Afterward, a missing person’s registry confirmed that he was Nicholas Barclay, the missing boy from Texas.
Nicholas’s Sister Travels to Spain
Back home, there was a heavy celebration, both by his family and the authorities. Nicholas had finally been found after all hope had been lost.
His sister Carey made the trip to Spain to bring back her brother. She must have been super-excited to be the first of her family to set eyes on him. However, her excitement faded soon after her arrival.
Could This Be Our Nicholas?
Carey brought Nicholas home, half happy and half suspicious. This wasn’t the Nicholas she knew. When the boy got home, the rest of the family agreed with Carey.
This Nicholas was a shadow of the one they were all used to. First, his personality had changed a great deal. The lively, talkative, and bad-tempered son they had was now a shy and quiet one.
The New Nicholas Had Some Convincing Explanations
The new Nicholas had a good explanation for his personality change. He explained that on the day he went missing, he was taken by some unknown men on his way home.
According to him, the men drove to the airport and took a flight Europe. He suggested his drop in morale was a result of the maltreatment he got from the ordeal in the hands of the trafficking ring.
The New Nicholas Had Brown Eyes
There were several obvious differences between the Nicholas who went missing and the one who was found. The missing Nicholas had blond hair and blue eyes, while the one who was discovered had dyed blond hair and brown eyes.
He also looked significantly older than he should have looked. The real Nicholas should have been 16 now, but this one looked at least five years older than that.
Investigators Grow Suspicious
Private investigators soon became interested in the story. They found Nicholas’s explanation for the change in his eye color pretty ridiculous—he had claimed that his abductors changed his eye color through a sophisticated scientific procedure.
Investigators found his story to be full of bogus claims. So, private eye Charlie Parker and his counterpart, FBI agent Nancy Fisher, set out to uncover the truth.
Charlie Parker Exposes the New Nicholas
After some careful investigation, Parker and Fisher were able to discover the true identity of the boy who claimed to be Nicholas. His name was Frederic Pierre Bourdin, a 23-year-old Frenchman who had made a name in mischief.
Many people had noticed, in addition to all the other signs, that the imposter had a French accent. Surprisingly, Nicholas’s immediate family continued to accept him as their lost son.
Who is Nicholas’ Imposter?
Frederic Pierre Bourdin was born in France on June 13th, 1974. He grew up under the care of his grandparents in Nantes and never knew his father. His mother, who left him with his grandparents, claimed that his dad was Algerian.
After a while, Frederic ran away from his grandparent’s care to Paris. It was while in the City of Love that he began assuming the identities of missing children.
The Interpol Called Frederic “The Chameleon”
Frederic Pierre Bourdin, also called “The Chameleon,” achieved notoriety in his home country of France for being a serial imposter. Besides Nicholas, the man had previously assumed the identities of hundreds of other people.
He was so well-known that he was on Interpol’s most-wanted list. His childish demeanor helped him blend into the identity of numerous children. He even went as far as getting the three tattoos that Nicholas had before he began his deceptive act.
Bourdin Studies the Worldwide Missing Children’s Registry
Bourdin derived fun from claiming the identities of missing children. He studied the worldwide missing children’s registry to pick out the characters that most caught his interest.
While at it, Frederic got comfort, food, shelter, sympathy, and the attention of the press. His habitual arrests and close shaves with imprisonment did little or nothing to deter him from his escapades.
The Imposter Is Sentenced to Prison
Shortly after his deception came to light, the Nicholas impersonator was arrested and charged in court. He was sentenced to six years in prison. Of course, he wasn’t remorseful. However, he had an exciting theory for the press.
Frederic believed that Nicholas’ family had a hand in his disappearance or at least was hiding something about it. In Frederic’s own words, “I think something happened inside that house, but I can’t prove it.”
Could Frederic Be Right on This One?
While no one wants to believe a serial imposter, investigators didn’t want to dismiss his claims too quickly. His theory has some substance to it.
According to Frederic, Nicholas’s family knew all along that he wasn’t their son, but accepting him was a good way to conclude the story and get the authorities off their trail.
The Bourdin Drama Continues
After serving his time for Nicholas’s impersonation, Frederic got caught yet again in 2005 after undertaking a similar act. Back in France after Nicholas’s impersonation, he again posed as a missing child.
He was caught after a teacher at the school heard about the famous imposter on TV and thought she had seen the face before. Immediately after he was arrested, Frederic dropped the act and asked to see a lawyer.
Some People Believe Frederic’s Theory
As mentioned, the now-married Frederic believed that one or more of Nicholas’s family members were responsible for his disappearance. Many other people subscribe to this theory, and you can’t blame them much for doing so.
There were a million red flags that Frederic wasn’t who he said he was. So why did Nicholas’s family continue to keep him? There are more questions than answers.
Charlie Parker is Convinced that Frederic is Right
Charlie Parker, for some reason, believes that Frederic’s theory has validity. Parker’s chief culprit is Jason, Nicholas’s half-brother.
Jason, who passed away from a substance overdose shortly after Frederic’s arrest, could have been responsible for Nichols’s disappearance. Parker’s logic is that Nicholas’s mom was trying to shield Jason from the law.
Investigators Are Still Searching For Nicholas
It has been close to three decades since Nicholas was last seen. Investigators are still searching for the missing boy who would now be well into middle age.
Besides a Netflix production centered around his imposter, Frederic, nothing has come to light about the boy who was playing basketball and never returned. Hopefully, there will be revelations in the case, and the truth of Nicholas’s disappearance will come out.