By Neelam Rahim
On Tuesday, a Dutch court jailed an Austrian handyman for helping a cult leader isolate his children on a farm for ten years in a case that shocked the Netherlands.
The case made headlines worldwide when it was discovered in October 2019 that the father had been living for years with six of his children in the farmhouse in the village of Ruinerwold in the eastern Netherlands. Their plight only came to light when one of the sons left the building and raised the alarm.
The Austrian was a “disciple” of the children’s father, Gerrit Jan van D., buying groceries and renting the farm where Van D. believed he was readying his children for a new world called Eden.
The father, accused of detaining, assaulting and abusing his children, was ruled unfit to stand trial last year after suffering a debilitating stroke.
The man, identified only as 61-year-old Joseph B., played an “essential role” in depriving the six children of their liberty in the remote northeastern village of Ruinerwold, the court ruled, jailing him for three years.
‘The defendant played an essential role, and without his contribution, it would not have been possible for the father to allow the children to live isolate from society for such a long period,’ the court in the northern city of Assen said.
Judges acquitted Joseph B. of detaining three older children and abusing any of Van D.’s children.
But he was also convicted of detaining another Austrian man who was the father’s follower and hanging him up in a shack for several weeks in 2009.
Police arrested Van D. and Joseph B. in October 2019 after the eldest child walked into a local bar in a confused state and raised the alarm.
The children eventually revealed that their father had isolated them at the farmhouse from birth and beaten them from a young age to drive out “bad spirits”.