Father and six children lived in basement for nine years ‘waiting for end of time’

Alarm raised by unkempt 25-year-old who arrived at pub and told staff he needed help

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 15 October 2019 21:57 BST
Father and six children lived in basement for nine years 'waiting for end of time'

A Dutch family who apparently spent nine years living in a basement on a farm waiting for the “end of time” has been discovered by police after a 25-year-old man raised suspicions at a nearby pub.

Upon investigating, police found six children aged 16-25 who had been living in a hidden basement beneath the large farm buildings in Ruinerwold, in the northern region of Drenthe, and their ailing father.

A 58-year-old man, not the father of the children, was arrested at the farm, according to local mayor Roger de Groot. His role was unclear.

The children had apparently had no contact with the outside world for nine years.

Local residents reportedly had no idea anyone other than the 58-year-old man were living there. The family had apparently been surviving on produce from a vegetable garden and some animals, including geese and a goat.

The secluded farm is hidden behind trees and the access road crosses a bridge over a canal.

The alarm was raised when the dishevelled 25-year-old, who was wearing old clothes, ordered and drank five beers at a local pub before telling staff he needed help.

According to Reuters, the owner of the premises, Chris Westerbeek, told local news organisations: “You could see he had no idea where he was or what he was doing.

“He said he had run away and that he urgently needed help.”

“He had long hair, a dirty beard, wore old clothes and looked confused. He said he’d never been to school and hadn’t been to the barber for nine years,” Mr Westerbeek told RTV.

“He said he had brothers and sisters who lived at the farm. He said he was the oldest and wanted to end the way they were living.”

When police visited the house, they eventually found a hidden staircase behind a cupboard, leading down to the basement where the seven people had been living.

A police statement on Twitter said officers searched the farm after being tipped off.

“The owner of the premises did not want to cooperate so was detained,” police spokeswoman Natalie Schubart told broadcaster RTL.

She said six family members were receiving medical attention and being cared for after being found in a “closed-off space”.

The farmhouse and gardens have been cordoned off and a police investigation is now under way. According to some reports the father was found in bed suffering from symptoms suggestive of having had a stroke.

The children were not registered anywhere and therefore not known to various authorities, RTV reported.

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

Police said they have taken into account their mother may have been buried at the farm. “We still have many unanswered questions,” the police said.

Neighbours have been appalled by the news. “I am shaking on my legs,” the neighbour of the farm where the family was found told Algemeen Dagblad news website.

The local postman told the news outlet he had never posted a letter there. “It’s actually pretty strange, now I come to think about it,” he said.

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