RUINERWOLD, Netherlands, Oct 16 – The discovery of six members of a family locked for years in a farmhouse’s secret room came after a scruffy young man walked into a pub, drank five beers and told the barman his secret.
The 25-year-old man’s revelation on Sunday that he hadn’t been outside for nine years set off a flurry of police activity near this village in the province of Drenthe.
The man’s four younger siblings, the youngest around 18, and a man they identified as their ailing father were discovered in a “small space in the house which could be locked,” police said.
On Thursday, a 58-year-old man who paid the rent on the secluded farmhouse will appear in court on charges of unlawful detention and harming others’ health, prosecutors said.
The suspect lived nearby. His name and any relationship to the six people were not released. The Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad identified him as “Joseph B.,” an Austrian carpenter.
Investigators have not commented on published reports that the family held apocalyptic “end of days” beliefs.
“There is a lot of speculation in the media about what happened, but as police we deal with facts. We still have a lot of unanswered questions,” Drenthe police spokeswoman Grietje Hartstra said.
The mother of the siblings was believed to have died before the family moved to the Dutch farm in 2010, Ruinerwold Mayor Roger De Groot told reporters.
The owner of the pub where the young man turned up Sunday night said he had come in looking bewildered, with long hair and clothes many years out of date.
“He ordered five beers and drank them. Then I talked to him. He said that he had run away and needed help,” Cafe de Kastelein owner Chris Westerbeek told the broadcaster RTV Drenthe. “You could see he had no idea where he was or what he was doing.”
A neighbor of the farmhouse, Roelie van Dijk, said she and her husband had seen a man driving in and out of the property for years and doing construction work. He always kept the gates closed and never socialized, she said.
Her husband, Sjon, said he once asked to see how the renovations were coming along, but the man yelled “no” and sped off.