‘Cultist’ detained in Dutch farm family case

An animal ambulance is seen at the site of a remote farm where a family spent years locked away in a cellar, according to Dutch broadcasters' reports, in Ruinerwold, Netherlands October 16, 2019. — Reuters pic
An animal ambulance is seen at the site of a remote farm where a family spent years locked away in a cellar, according to Dutch broadcasters' reports, in Ruinerwold, Netherlands October 16, 2019. — Reuters pic

THE HAGUE, Oct 17 — A Dutch judge today ordered the detention of an Austrian suspected of holding a family captive in a farmhouse, as reports emerged that both the suspect and the family had been in religious organisations.

The 58-year-old, identified by media as Josef B., was arrested on Tuesday after police freed a father and six adult children who had been kept in a secret room in the village of Ruinerwold.

“The examining magistrate of the northern Netherlands court has just ordered the detention for the duration of 14 days of a 58-year-old man on suspicion of illegal deprivation of liberty,” Dutch prosecutors said on Twitter.

The judge will decide at a later date whether he should be charged.

Investigators are still unravelling the mystery of the family, who reportedly spent years locked away from the outside world “waiting for the end of time” as part of a doomsday cult.

They were discovered when the oldest son walked into a local bar in a confused state and raised concerns about the welfare of the others.

Josef B. rented the farmhouse but did not live there, and ran a carpentry business in a nearby town.

Dutch local television station RTV Drenthe said Josef B and the captive family were all part of South Korea’s controversial Unification Church, dubbed “Moonies” after their late founder Sun Myung-moon.

Wim Koetsier of the Universal Peace Federation, the name the church now goes by, confirmed that the father of the family was a member in the 1980s, before leaving for Germany where “we lost sight of him”.

Josef B. however “was never a member,” Koetsier told the Dutch news agency ANP.

He said he believed the father “together with someone else” had since started their own group.

The brother of Josef B. separately said that the suspect had previously been in a cult after leaving military service, although he did not say which religious group.

“He was in a sect. We’ve had no contact with him for 10 years. I told him to get lost when he wanted me to become his financial guarantor,” his brother Franz B. told Kronen Zeitung newspaper.

Josef B. had twin daughters with a Japanese woman, Franz B. added. — AFP

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