A father of five has been charged with abuse and money laundering after his family was found to have been allegedly held captive for nearly a decade while waiting for the “end of times,” according to a report.
Geert van Dorsten, 67, was allegedly a member of the controversial Unification Church, the followers of which are sometimes colloquially called “Moonies” after their late founder Sun Myung Moon. It was there that he was believed to have met 58-year-old Carpenter Brunner.
Brunner, who is known as “Josef the Austrian,” was initially solely implicated in the alleged imprisonment of van Dorsten and his five children in a remote farmhouse in Ruinerworld, 60 miles north of Amsterdam, according to Metro. He was charged with removing the liberty of individuals and prejudicing the health of others, the paper reported Thursday.
But by later that day, news came that van Dorsten had also been charged in the alleged incident.
“We are dealing with an exceptional situation in this case. These people may have lived with each other in the home since 2010, apart from society," police said in a statement, Agence France-Presse wrote.
Police told reporters the family was held in small, makeshift rooms and some of the alleged victims were led to believe they were the only people on Earth. All of van Dorsten’s children were adults between the ages of 18 and 25 by the time they were found.
"The situation encountered requires a careful approach whereby attention and care is given to the young adults found,” police said. Dutch media reported the family was “waiting for the end of time” and were allegedly part of a doomsday cult.
Brunner’s family told reporters they had not had contact with him for a decade, as they believed him to have joined a cult after leaving military service.
“He was in a sect,” his brother Franz Brunner told Kronen Zeitung newspaper. “We've had no contact with him for 10 years. I told him to get lost when he wanted me to become his financial guarantor.”
Brunner and van Dorsten reportedly lived next door to each other before allegedly moving to the farmhouse.
“The children didn’t go to a school in the neighborhood,” Sandra Soer, who lives in Hasselt, south of Ruinerwold, told MailOnline. “But I saw them leave every morning with a bag with their father, so I assumed they were going to school somewhere else.”
Shortly after Brunner moved in next door to the van Dorsten family, they removed a fence that separated their backyards, according to Soer. Brunner left the block first, and then in 2004, Geert announced his wife had died of colon cancer, which came as a shock as no one knew she had been sick, Soer said. The family left not long after.
Neighbors living near the remote farm, which was set back 200 yards from the nearest road, told Dutch news site RTV Drenthe they were aware of Brunner, but he was a private man who they had no idea was not living alone.
“I have known him for about seven years, but I really know very little about him,” a man who owned a building next door said. “I would see him every day, but he will just say hello. I could never have imagined that he had another home and six people were in there.”
The alleged situation came to light after Jan Zon van Dorsten, 25, the eldest of the children, managed to get to a nearby bar in the town Sunday to ask for help.
Jan had posted regularly on social media until 2010, when it is thought his family moved to the home. His Facebook profile became active again in June, when Jan posted he was working as an online store manager.
“Creativity for everyone!” he wrote.
He went on to post image of nature and promote causes including climate strikes. On Saturday, he uploaded three photos taken in the dark of landmarks around Ruinerwold.
Jan reportedly went to the bar three times, appearing disheveled and confused, before officials there called police. The young man’s four siblings and father were found in a room hidden behind a staircase in the house, Metro reported.
“I understand there are a lot of questions,” local Mayor Roger de Groot told reporters. “We have many too.”
Though Geert and Brunner were reported to have both been members of the Unification Church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), the organization refuted that claim.
Geert "was briefly a member of our movement in the mid-1980's" before leaving the organization in 1987, the FFWPU said.
His estranged brother has been "a long-time member of the church," according to the FFWPU, which said the pair had not been in contact since 1984.
"In addition, we are unable to confirm any records of Mr. Josef Brunner, the alleged captor, having ever been associated in any way with the Unification Church," the FFWPU said. "Family Federation champions three ideals: family, peace, and unification. We are grateful that the ... victims in this tragedy are now under the care of the local authorities and pray that they will be able to heal from their ordeal with time and professional help."