Drenthe farmhouse mystery: police searches and old neighbours speak

The church in Ruinerwold. Photo: Kiwi91 via Wikimedia Commons
The church in Ruinerwold. Photo: Kiwi91 via Wikimedia Commons

Drenthe police searched two properties in the town of Zwartsluis on Thursday as part of their investigation into the mystery family apparently kept on an isolated farmhouse for nine years, local broadcaster RTV Drenthe said.

Zwarthuis is some 15 minutes drive from Ruinerwold, where the family of young adults were found living in a ‘makeshift’ part of the property on Monday.

One of the buildings was home to a wood products company called Natural Homes which shut down some time ago and is said to have been owned by the family at the centre of the investigation. The owner of the cafe opposite told the Telegraaf that the shop closed in 2006 ‘because of ill health’.

The 58-year-old Austrian national who was arrested when police went to the farmhouse earlier this week will appear in court on Thursday for a remand hearing. He has been charged with keeping several people against their will and possibly endangering their health, the public prosecution department said.

RTV Drenthe says the family appears to have known Josef B since the time they lived in Hasselt in Overijssel. A former neighbour told the broadcaster B and the family lived next to each other some 15 years ago, although the police have not confirmed this.

‘I never went inside but my daughter did and she said everything was made of wood,’ former neighbour Sandra Van der Kamp Soer said.


The family, she said, went to church on Sunday. ‘He had a long Jesus beard. The children also had long hair and you could not tell who was a boy or a girl,’ she said.

Another neighbour told the broadcaster the mother had died of bowel cancer and a year later the family had moved away. Van der Kamp Soer said the mother was ‘foreign’ and spoke English. ‘She was inside most of the time, she was a timid woman,’ she said.

On Wednesday it emerged that the oldest son, who had sounded the alarm, was active on social media and had created an online history for himself on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Austrian paper Kronen Zeitung has an interview with a man who is said to be Josef B’s brother. Josef, brother Franz B says, had trained as a carpenter but had become a member of a sect.

He was with a sect, he felt himself better than Jesus,’ he said. ‘We have had no contact for 10 years.’

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