Father who held children captive in a remote farmhouse may never face trial

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

The case against a man who held six of his children locked up in a farmhouse for nine years in a Drenthe village may never come to court because of his medical condition, according to evidence given at a preliminary hearing in Assen on Wednesday.

The father, 68-year-old Gerrit Jan van D, had a stroke several years before the family were discovered in October 2019, after the eldest son turned up at a bar in the nearby village of Ruinerwold. Then the story of how he and his five siblings had been held captive by their father for nine years gradually emerged.

At a previous hearing in January 2020, prosecutors said Van D. had run the household as a religious commune, punishing his children for ‘evil spirits’ by refusing to feed them or putting them into solitary confinement.

However, his condition now makes it impossible for him to stand trial, experts say. Van D is accused of the false imprisonment and the sexual abuse of his children.

His lawyer Robert Snorn told the judge that Van D would not be able to understand the proceedings and has requested the court adjourn the case because of the mental deficiency of his client.

This means that in principle the case can be resumed if Van D’s condition improves but that is thought to be unlikely.

Based on evidence by people who knew him before his stroke, the hearing established that Van D had a narcissistic personality disorder. The judge called him ‘manipulative, domineering and a megalomaniac with a distorted sense of reality.’

The next hearing will be on Thursday when the public prosecutor will pronounce its opinion on the adjournment. The final decision on whether or not he should face trial will be made by the court on March 4.

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