Truancy officer saw no cause for alarm in past visit to trapped family


In the past a school attendance officer from the municipality of Zwartewaterland investigated the family found living in complete isolation on a farm in Ruinerwold earlier this week. The truancy officer saw no reason to intervene at the time and concluded that te situation was "in order", mayor Eddy Bilder of Zwartwaterland said on Friday, De Stentor reports.

Before moving to the farm in Drenthe nine years ago, the family lived in the municipality of Zwartwaterland for years, first in Hasselt and then In Zwartsluis. 

In the past, an attendance officer was sent to look into the children in the family who were of school age, and therefore subject to compulsory education. He ruled that everything was in order. His findings were put in a report, which has now been sent to the police, mayor Bilder said.

Father Gerrit Jan van D. was found living in a hidden room on a farm in Ruinerwold with six of his children on Monday. The police believe they've been living there in complete isolation from the rest of the world for nine years. The children told the police they are between the ages of 18 and 25. None of them have birth certificates. The family was discovered after one son, a 25-year-old named Jan, got out and made contact with local residents.

The tenant of the farm, Josef B., and Van D. have both been arrested. They are suspected of deprivation of freedom, harming the health of others, and money laundering. B. was arraigned on Thursday and remanded into custody for at least another 14 days. 

Van D. also has three other children who fled the family eight years ago, and one more son from a previous marriage, the man's family revealed in a statement. 

Residents of Zwartsluis, who knew members of the Van D. family when they lived in the town, told De Stentor that they only ever knew about two or three children.

The mayor does not know whether the other children were home-schooled when the truancy officer went to check up on them. "I do not know how much education they received at home", Bilder said, adding that home-schooling is allowed.