Netherlands: The Hidden Children of Ruinerwold

Vincent de Goijer still can not believe what happened on his doorstep. "That's so crazy." The 46-year-old Dutchman pushes his trash can to the side of the road and looks out on the farm, which is about a hundred meters away. Security people have shut off the driveway with flutter tape. Only policemen are allowed to continue here.


Buitenhuizerweg 14, Ruinerwold, Drenthe. Since Monday, this address in the northeast of the Netherlands has been a crime scene that has caused a stir far beyond the borders of the country. The 58-year-old Austrian Josef B. is said to have detained a family here for nine years in a remote part of a 4,000-person village – isolated from the outside world, without social contacts.


false imprisonment? Abuse? Money laundering?


Josef B. is in custody, the investigators accuse him deprivation of liberty. On Thursday, a judge confirmed the arrest warrant. In the evening, police said that 67-year-old alleged father Gerrit Jan van D. had been arrested. In addition to deprivation of liberty, the investigators accuse him of abuse: He is said to have denied the six children doctor visits. Another allegation: money laundering. At Buitenhuizerweg they have "found a lot of cash", a police spokeswoman said.


What happened on the farm behind the hedges is still largely unclear. How did B. relate to the family? Is the father Gerrit Jan van D. perpetrator or victim or both? Did the six children actually live in the yard for nine years without being able to leave the property?


"The children are not registered"


"We do not have a story yet," says a police spokeswoman. Only cautiously did they begin to question the children. That it is a family, was previously unassignable. "They say that, but the children are not registered."


The neighbor Vincent de Goijer says that the Austrian Josef B. has always been taciturn. In the Buitenhuizerweg, which runs for miles along meadows and fields, one cultivates a "close community". Only B. had been outside. "Hello" he said, nothing more. Any attempt to contact has failed. According to the neighbor, the suspect did not live in the yard. "He came in the morning or at noon and drove away before it got dark."


Ansgar Siemens / THE MIRROR

Neighbor Vincent de Goijer: "I do not think anyone was imprisoned there"


Josef B., a carpenter by profession, has been renovating the property since he rented it in 2010. Other people, de Goijer says, he never saw. "I do not think anyone was imprisoned there." It was not hard to escape, nowhere were there any hard obstacles.


Is it a sect?


A police spokeswoman said that one had to clarify whether the persons had been there against their will. And she points out that there might have been psychic coercion that could have kept people in the yard.


Media reports that the family had been waiting in the yard for a kind of end of time. Some of the children would believe that there are no other people in the world besides them. There is talk of a sect.


The police do not rule that out. It was examined whether "a certain belief in life or belief" led to the life situation of the young people. At least the father should have been a member of a sect. A spokesman for the so-called Unification Church of the self-proclaimed and already deceased Korean "Messiah" Sun Myung Moon confirmed that the man was a member years ago. But the police also stress that they are still investigating.


An unknown person asking for help


Chris Westerbeek runs the pub De Kastelein in the center of Ruinerwold. The 27-year-old is the man who got the case rolling. From Thursday to Sunday, the shop has until three o'clock in the morning, late at night, the guests gather at Schummerlicht at the bar. Everyone knows everyone here, that's the rule.


Ansgar Siemens / THE MIRROR

Bar owner Chris Westerbeek: "He said he needs help"


Jan van D. did not know anybody here. Last Sunday, the alleged 25-year-old appeared within a short time for the third time, as Westerbeek confirmed the SPIEGEL. Confused, the man had worked and neglected. "He said he needs help." Westerbeek alerted the police.


When the officers searched the farm a little later, they discovered the six alleged relatives of Jan van D. in a room on the ground floor. They also met Josef B. He had "not wanted to cooperate," so they arrested him.


An empty wooden toy store


On Wednesday, the police also searched a shop in the small town Zwartsluis, about 16 kilometers from the farmhouse. Here, in Kerkstraat 6, Gerrit Jan van D. registered a company in 2004, as extracts from the Dutch commercial register show.


Natural Homes sold clay and wood products, but also furniture and wooden toys. A video from the year 2006, which is available to the SPIEGEL, shows the store. Outside, two flags are blowing in the wind, inside you can see shelves with mudbricks, paint pots and patterns for wood panels.


Just a few months after Gerrit Jan van D., Josef B. also registered a company in the neighboring town of Meppel in 2005, with a name that is almost identical – B. simply appended his own last name to the "Natural Homes". The purpose of the company: among other things the production of furniture and wooden toys. It seems that both men worked together until the year 2008 – then both companies were closed in quick succession.


Since then, the shop in the Kerkstraat has deteriorated, even though the façade still bears the inscription "Natural Homes". In a window on the first floor is still a wooden rocking horse.


"Closed due to illness of the wife"


Petra Westra has been running a hairdressing business for decades. She remembers Gerrit Jan van D. as a "very quiet" person who had at least four young children. "He did not talk to the neighbors." At some point in the shop window hung a note: "Closed due to illness of the wife." After that, the shop did not open anymore.


Ansgar Siemens / THE MIRROR

Barber Petra Westra: "He did not speak to the neighbors"


Josef B. remained in the furniture industry after the closure. In 2009 he founded a new one-man business in Meppel, just a few meters from his old company site. Here he built kayaks, furniture and kayaks, according to the commercial register.


Ten years pass. It is not clear yet what happened during this time. When did the alleged family van D. move to the farm of Josef B.?


Caught – but with access to the Internet?


It was not until May 2019 that the name of one of the alleged sons appeared on the Internet. It's Jan van D., the 25-year-old, who will call the police four months later. The young man – or someone from his environment – apparently creates various profiles on social media, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as the LinkedIn careers network.


Photos show him in a room in front of a laptop, cross-legged in the grass. In conversation with the SPIEGEL recognizes pub owner Westerbeek the young Jan van D. in the photos again. The police do not want to comment on this. For reasons of personal protection.


The user Jan van D. wrote all his posts in June 2019 and the months after. He has also used a feature of Facebook, with the entries can be backdated. He writes entries for the year 2010 and earlier. This gives the false impression that van D. had taken a Facebook break at exactly that time when the alleged family disappeared.


Like so many things in this case, it remains a mystery.


Why did not the young man get help via the internet, where he apparently could create social media profiles and post flower photos? What's up with the companies he's been working for according to his Facebook profile?


Furnaces from Turkey, orders to Freelancer


Jan van D. claims to manage the Facebook pages of the companies Creconat and Arikazan Nederland. These names lead in the Dutch commercial register in turn back to a single company: the Native Creative Economy, registered on Josef B., with the same address as its furniture workshop. Native Creative Economy was only founded in June 2019, the same time Jan van D.'s online profiles were created.


Under the label Arikazan, the company sells heating stoves according to its own website. In fact, there is a Turkish company Arikazan, which manufactures these furnaces. According to SPIEGEL demand, the Turkish company confirms that they have been working with the Dutch "for some time".


The user Jan van D. also placed orders on the internet portal There freelance graphic artists, designers and photographers from all over the world can offer their services. A user with the username of Jan van D. ordered there a logo and various Stock Photos – for the website and the Facebook page of Arikazan Nederland.


But how does the import of Turkish boilers fit into the wait for the end of time? Why buy a logo design by a graphic designer from the United States and at the same time believe that you are one of the last people in the world? Is not Jan van D.?

behind the account?


The police have set up a 30-member special commission that also has to deal with these issues. "We are conducting a thorough investigation to answer many of these questions that we too are facing," the agency said in a press release.

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