One of the two main suspects in the farmhouse family mystery appeared in court in Assen on Tuesday for the first procedural hearing in the case.
Josef B, the Austrian odd jobs man who rented the farmhouse on behalf of the family and is suspected of kidnapping and money laundering was in court to hear the charges against him and to hear details of the investigation. He was remanded in custody until the main case takes place later this year.
‘I have robbed no-one of their freedom,’ B said in court. ‘This is a witch hunt. If someone believes in god, surely that is their own decision.’
B said nothing of the case as it has been reported so far is true. ‘There was no cellar and no-one was kept there against their will,’ he said.
Gerrit Jan van D, the father of the six youngsters, is not well enough to talk and remains in prison hospital in Scheveningen.
The family were discovered in early October when one youngster went to the local bar, appealing for help.
At the time the family was portrayed as some sort of doomsday cult with no connection to the outside world, but it emerged later that both the father and the eldest son were active on social media.
It also transpired that Van D had three other children who had broken contact with him and never lived in Ruinerwold. He is suspected of sexually abusing two of them.
The court was told on Tuesday that the abuse took place when they were between the ages of 12 and 15, and that Van D saw female spirits in them, including that of their mother. She had died in 2004
The births of the six children who lived on the farm had never been included in the official registers and they had lived all their lives away from normal society, the public prosecutor said.
Although none of the children have made a formal complaint against their father or B, the public prosecutor said they had been the victims of criminal acts.
Both Van D and B knew ‘very well’ that what they were doing was punishable by law, the public prosecutor said. ‘Gerrit van D was the evil genius but Josef B was his partner in crime,’ the public prosecutor is quoted as saying by the Telegraaf.
All the children were required to pray, sometimes for weeks at a time. During those periods they were only given water to drink and no food.
They were also punished physically. Sometimes they were hit with sticks, or were forced to sit in an ice cold bath until they lost consciousness. Many of the details are contained in Van D’s diaries which were seized during the police investigation.
At the end of last year, the four oldest children put out a joint statement via documentary film maker Jessica Villerius, saying that they support the complaints made against their father, who also faces charges of kidnapping and money laundering.
But the five youngest children say they back their father and describe the division between them and their older siblings, in the statement, as ‘very painful’.
The children will all be required to testify during the main hearings, but this will take place in closed court.
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