Under his spell: How Did doomsday guru brainwash ‘Moonie’ cult family into farm dungeon hell undetected for nine years?

The Sun, UK/Ocober 17, 2019

By Felix Allen

The arrest of an alleged Moonies-style cult guru after a family of six were rescued from a farm dungeon has sparked questions of how he apparently got away for it for so long.

Carpenter Josef Brunner, 58, is suspected of holding a disabled friend and his five brainwashed children "prisoner" for nine years at an isolated smallholding in Ruinerwold, north Holland.

After the eldest son escaped and sought help, police found them in a lockable, windowless room with makeshift furnishings where they apparently ate and slept on the floor.

Until then authorities had no knowledge of Gerrit-Jan van Dorsten and his five grown-up children, who were not on the population register and never went to school or had medical care.

They did not even seek help when Gerrit, now 67, had a stroke three years ago which left him paralysed and bedridden.

Neighbours said they never saw any of the family members, only a mysterious handyman known as "Josef the Austrian" who came each day in a Volvo before returning to his caravan four miles away.

The bearded "Jesus figure" carried out repairs and tended to the vegetable patch, a goat and some geese, but did not live there himself, according to reports.

Farm owner Alida ten Oever, 66, said Brunner always paid the rent on time and she never noticed the presence of other people at the run-down property which he was renovating.

She told the Telegraaf newspaper: "We are quite perplexed about it all."

He also reportedly made sure nosy villagers did not get near the house, set back 200 yards from the road and surrounded by high trees and fences.

One told Dutch TV: "You only had to get close to the yard and he sent you away. He was watching everything with binoculars."

Another said: "The man has renovated all this alone, came with his trailer and building materials. I've always wondered 'how can he do it all on his own?'

"He must have had help, it can not be done on his own."


Reports in Holland today suggested the family may be members of the Unification Church - the bizarre Christian sect known as the Moonies.

After they were rescued the Van Dorstens were temporarily housed in a bungalow park where they continued their ritual of walking in circles every half an hour, reports RTV Drenthe.

There was no space in the mobile homes so they did laps outside - alarming other residents and forcing authorities to move them elsewhere.

It was also claimed a large quantity of cash was found in the house - possibly donations from other followers around the world.

That could explain how they paid the rent and lived with no other apparent source of income.

Brunner was not only their alleged captor but also their lifeline who brought in a weekly Lidl supermarket shop.

It aroused some suspicion - but not enough to prompt any official enquiries.

A man who owns a building next to Brunner's workshop in nearby Meppel said he discovered a trailer at the back where he was living illegally.

He told MailOnline: "I could never have imagined that he had another home and six people were in there. He never ever talk about friends or anybody.

"I was curious because he would buy something like 50 toilet rolls and huge boxes of food once a week and then drive off with them.

"But he lived here. So he wasn't living with that family."

Brunner, who moved to Holland from Austria around 16 years ago, is said to have drawn his pal Gerrit-Jan under his spell when they were both members of a cult and lived next door to each other.

The two men also shared a love of woodwork - Gerrit made toys and Josef was an accomplished carpenter who also made canoes.

Gerrit's wife, said to be a "timid" foreigner who spoke English, was also believed to be in the sect.

But neighbours in Hasselt rarely saw her and did not know she had died in 2008 until a year later.

Former neighbour Sandra Soer said: "I never went inside but my daughter did and she said everything was made of wood."

She added: "He had a long Jesus beard. The children also had long hair and you could not tell who was a boy or a girl."

They are believed to have moved to Ruinerwold around 2010 and vanished from view.

The mystery deepened as it emerged the eldest Van Dorsten child, Jan, had been posting on social media since June.

It was also claimed he may have created a "back story" for himself by re-timing posts which were only a few days or weeks old.

Jan was the one who sparked the police raid - and ended the family's ordeal - by going to a cafe and telling the owner his brothers and sisters needed help.

Today it was reported Jan is being housed separately from his siblings, who remarkably appear in good health and are "normal looking".

But last night police revealed some of the alleged victims can no longer talk properly and speak in a bizarre "fantasy language" after being isolated for so long.

Reports have claimed they were "waiting for the end of days" as part of an apocalyptic cult, and some of the younger siblings were convinced they were the only humans on Earth.

Brunner was quizzed in court today on suspicion of "unlawful detention and injuring the health of others".

More details of his background emerged including claims he joined a religious sect in the army, abandoned twins he fathered with a Japanese cult member, and had other children with a wife that he also left behind when he moved to Holland.

Josef's own brother Franz condemned him as "greedy and lazy" and said he did not come home for their mother and father's funerals.

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