Ricardas Puisys was last seen on Saturday, September 26 2015 while working for a fruit and vegetable producer in Cambridgeshire, eastern England.
Concerns were raised when the then 35-year-old failed to turn up for work the following Monday. By the November of that year, a murder investigation was launched.
But on Monday, police revealed that the “complete mystery” had been solved after Puisys was found living in wooded area in the town of Wisbech.
He was “very well concealed” after deliberately hiding and not speaking with anyone “for some time,” police said.
Officers believe that the man, who they say is now safe, may have run away after becoming the victim of exploitation.
A statement issued by Cambridgeshire Constabulary revealed that the missing man was found on July 1, but that the news has only just come to light because of efforts to “protect him and put safeguarding measures in place.”
Detective Chief Inspector Rob Hall, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, said in the statement: “For almost five years Ricardas’ disappearance has been a complete mystery. That was until we received information at the end of June which led us to finding him.”
Police revealed that initial concerns were reported to them a month before Puisys’ disappearance “when it was suggested to police he was being exploited and had moved addresses within Wisbech.”
According to the statement, he had at that time been employed through an agency to work at Nightlayer Leek Company in Chatteris.
After his last sighting at work, Puisys was believed to have been in the company of several Lithuanian men before disappearing, police said.
Hall added: “There were genuine concerns Ricardas came to harm that evening. He did not return to work on Monday, 28 September, 2015 as expected, but we now believe Ricardas made the decision to run away as he had been a victim of crime, having previously been subject to exploitation.”
In December last year, Cambridgeshire Constabulary issued an update to say that they had received reports of sightings of Puisys, two weeks after a fresh appeal was launched.
In last year’s update, they said that the investigation had changed direction after a Facebook account was set up in the missing man’s name with images that they believed to be of him.
Hall said: “A team of investigators worked tirelessly following up a number of inquiries, none leading to the discovery of Ricardas. That was until we received information that Ricardas may have been alive and still in the Wisbech area.”
He added: “He is safe and we are working very closely with him to ensure he remains safe, but also to ensure he gets the support he needs after having lived through extremely difficult circumstances during the last five or more years.”
An investigation into potential exploitation of Puisys has now been launched, according to police.