Austrian jailed over Dutch farm cult children

AFP/June 14, 2022

A Dutch court on Tuesday jailed an Austrian handyman for helping a cult leader to isolate his own children on a farm for a decade, in a case that shocked the Netherlands.

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 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, who was accused of detaining, assaulting and abusing his children, was ruled unfit to stand trial last year after suffering a debilitating stroke.

“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 isolated 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 of abusing any of Van D.’s children.

But he was also convicted of detaining another Austrian man who was a follower of the father 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”.

The father saw himself as a new Messiah and “saw it as his task to found a new society called Eden according to the rules of God,” the court ruling said.

Joseph B. had found the farm in Ruinerwold, rented it in his name and renovated it with Van D. so that the family could live there in isolation, the court said.

He also ensured that money transferred from Austria went to the father and took care of daily groceries, even after Van D.’s stroke in 2016.

He had a “different role” to the father but there was “sufficiently close and conscious cooperation” between them to show that he was also guilty, the court ruled.

The case of the so-called Ruinerwold Children stunned the Netherlands and sparked a award-winning documentary.

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