Dutch Police Discover Family Locked Away for Years on Farm

AMSTERDAM—Seven adults were receiving medical treatment on Tuesday after Dutch police acting on a tip-off discovered them locked away in a secret room at an isolated farm, officials in the Netherlands said on Tuesday.

Six of them, aged 18 to 25, and an older man were found near Ruinerwold, a village in the northern province of Drenthe, local Mayor Roger de Groot said. They had apparently had no contact with the outside world for nine years.

De Groot said a 58-year-old man, not the father of the children, was arrested at the farm. His role was unclear.

“As far as I know their mother died before they arrived there,” he said. “Police found makeshift living quarters where the family was living in hiding.”

NETHERLANDS-SOCIAL-FAMILY
An aerial picture taken on Oct. 15, 2019 shows a view of the farm where a father and six children had been living in the cellar, In Ruinerwold, northern Netherlands. (WILBERT BIJZITTER/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

The family, who according to local news reports had been waiting for the end of time, was discovered after one of the siblings escaped and sought help at a nearby cafe.

An employee at the cafe told RTV Drenthe one of the family members, a 25-year-old man, had come in looking scruffy and bewildered with long hair and said he had not been outside for nine years.

“You could see he had no idea where he was or what he was doing,” the cafe owner, Chris Westerbeek, told the broadcaster. “He said he had run away and that he urgently needed help.”

A general view of a remote farm where a family spent years locked away in a cellar, according to Dutch broadcasters' reports, in Ruinerwold
A general view of a remote farm where a family spent years locked away in a cellar, according to Dutch broadcasters’ reports, in Ruinerwold, Netherlands Oct. 15, 2019. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters)

The siblings and their father, who was reportedly bedridden after a stroke, were receiving treatment at an undisclosed location, the mayor said.

“I understand there are a lot of questions,” de Groot said. We have many too. The police are investigating all possible scenarios.”

The siblings had apparently lived in a hidden cellar and survived on vegetables and animals tended in a secluded garden, local TV RTV Drenthe reported.

By Stephanie van den Berg, Writing by Anthony Deutsch