A man and at least five young adults believed to be his children are receiving medical treatment after hiding in a secret basement room for nine years waiting “for the end of time”, according to news agencies in the Netherlands.
Local media claims the group were discovered by police at a farmhouse near the remote village of Ruinerwold, in the northern Dutch province of Drenthe, after a local cafe owner raised the alert. The family, the youngest of whom is 16, are believed to have had no contact with the outside world for almost a decade.
Reports conflict over the number of young adults in the cellar, with some outlets reporting that six were found, and the whereabouts of their mother is unknown.
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English-language Dutch news site NL Times says that another man, aged 58, who was renting the farmhouse, was arrested after refusing to cooperate with the police inquiry. Neighbours claimed that the man, named only as Joseph B, spoke German and was referred to by locals as “the Austrian”, adds The Guardian.
A police spokesperson confirmed that a man had been arrest but “would not confirm the relation between the people or describe the conditions they were found in or their state of health”, The Telegraph reports.
The alarm was reportedly raised by local man Chris Westerbeek, who told reporters that the oldest of the children, a 25-year-old man, had come to his cafe in Ruinerwold early in October and ordered and drunk five beers on his own.
When the man then reappeared ten days later looking “confused”, Westerbeek contacted the authorities. The cafe owner said the man “had long hair, a dirty beard [and] wore old clothes” and had “said he’d never been to school and hadn’t been to the barber for nine years”.
“You could see he had no idea where he was or what he was doing,” Westerbeek added. “He said he had run away and that he urgently needed help.”
The BBC reports that after being called to the farmhouse, police “discovered a hidden staircase behind a cupboard in the living room that led down to a secret room where the family were housed”.
DutchNews.nl reports that the group had been “living in isolation waiting for the end of time” and were “completely self-sufficient due to a vegetable garden at the property and animals”.
Local newspaper the Algemeen Dagblad says police were considering the possibility that the mother of the children may have died and is buried on the property.
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