Suspect in family's concealment kept in jail; Link to Unification Church emerges

Gavel with lady justice in the background
Gavel with lady justice in the backgroundPhoto: SergPoznanskiy/DepositPhotos

Josef B. was remanded into custody by a magistrate on Thursday for at least another 14 days while an investigation continues into the family found living in a hidden room on his farm. The man is suspected of depriving a man and his six now-adult children of their physical freedom for nearly a decade, and causing harm to their health, according to the prosecutor's office in Noord-Nederland.

B. was arrested on Tuesday after the police found a father and his six adult children living in a concealed space on the property B. rents in Ruinerwold. The police believe they have been living on the farm, in isolation from the rest of the world, for around nine years. None of them are registered with the municipality. The children told the police that they were between the ages of 18 and 25 years. 

Josef B.'s older brother Franz told newspaper AD that he is not surprised by the suspicions against his brother. Franz thinks that Josef met the Dutch father at a cult in Austria in the 1990s. Broadcaster RTV Drenthe reported from sources that the family and B. all belong to the Unification Movement, whose members are sometimes referred to as "Moonies", started decades ago by Sun Myung Moon.

The broadcaster said they all know each other because of involvement in the cult, at least since the family's previous residence in Hasselt, Overijssel.

The father of the six children is believed to have had a stroke in 2016, leading to paralysis. His work with the cult was respected and he, like many members of the cult, received a stipend from the church's collected donations. They continued to receive the benefit after he was suffered the stroke, RTV Drenthe said.

The family was found after the oldest son, a 25-year-old named Jan, got out and made contact with local residents. Authorities have since housed Jan's father and siblings in one location, and Jan in another.