Suspect's brother not surprised by involvement with family concealed for years

Police at a farm on Buitenhuizerweg in Ruinerwold, where a family was found living in seclusion for nine years, 15 Oct 2019
Police at a farm on Buitenhuizerweg in Ruinerwold, where a family was found living in seclusion for nine years, 15 Oct 2019Photo: Politie Drenthe/Twitter

The older brother of 58-year-old Austrian man Josef B. is not surprised that his brother was arrested on suspicion of depriving a family of their freedom for nine years on a farm in Ruinerwold, he said to newspaper AD. "Josef has a very strong persuasiveness", brother Franz said to the newspaper.

Josef B. was arrested earlier this week after the police found a father and his six adult children living in a hidden space on the farm B. was renting in Ruinerwold. On Wednesday the Public Prosecutor announced that B. is suspected of depriving people of their physical freedom, and harming the health of others.

Franz describes Josef as greedy, calculating and unpredictable. He hasn't had contact with him in 10 years. When he heard about 'Josef the Austrian' being arrested in connection with a family kept isolated from the world for years, he immediately thought of his brother. 

Josef grew up on a family farm with four siblings. "When my father handed over the farm to me, the problems started", Franz said. "When Josef learned that I was in charge of the farm, he immediately demanded that I pay him for his services." That was the first of many fights. "He always wanted money and was always after his own advantage."

Franz sent him away when Josef asked him to stand surety for a bank loan. After drifting around for a while, Josef ended up with an elderly aunt who named him as her heir. He lived with the aunt in a 300 year old house with a lot of land in Pabneukirchen from 1998 to about 2008, Franz said. "Almost as strictly religious as he used to be, he behaved like a pagan then. He bluntly removed an altar decorated by that aunt in her home. After the aunt's death, he first sold the land. The home followed in 2009. A broker arranged everything because Josef was already living in Meppel back then."

According to Franz, Josef B. likely met the father of the family held at his farm in an Austrian cult he joined after his military service in Linz. He met his Dutch friend Gerrit-Jan van D. in that cult in the 90s, Franz said to AD. "Josef regularly visited that friend with his wife and daughters. He had a family with seven or eight children. In 2006 or 2007, Josef left his wife and children behind and went to the Netherlands. His daughters, now adults, tried in vain to get in touch with him in 2017."

The Dutch police are continuing their investigation at the Ruinerwold farmhouse on Buitenhuizerweg. On Thursday forensic investigators are working on creating a digital record of all the inside areas of the home, the police said. 

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