The first pictures have emerged of a 25-year-old man who saved his family from a life in isolation at a remote Dutch house while waiting ‘for the end of time’ after he walked to a nearby bar and asked for help.
Police say Jan Zon van Dorsten had been living in a ‘small, enclosed space’ at a house in Ruinerwold, around 60 miles north of Amsterdam, for the last nine years until he appeared at a bar in the town on Sunday, ordered five beers, and asked for help.
That led officers to the remote homestead where they found Jan’s four brothers and sisters, aged between 18 and 25, along with their father. The family has been taken to a safe location while a seventh person – Austrian Josef B, 58 – has been arrested.
Investigators admit they are deeply puzzled by the case and are still working to answer key questions – such as whether the family were held against their will, and what exactly their relationship was with Josef B.
The mystery is deepened further by the fact that Jan, the eldest son, had access to social media and had been active on Facebook since June this year.
Jan Zon van Dorsten, 25, is the son who alerted Dutch police to the plight of his four brothers and sisters and their father, who were living in isolation at a remote house while apparently waiting ‘for the end of time’
Jan raised the alarm after walking from the house to a local bar where he ordered five beers and told the bartender that he couldn’t go home
Officers raided this property on Sunday where they discovered Jan’s family living in an ‘enclosed space’. Josef B, 58, who rented the property, was arrested after refusing to cooperate with the investigation
Posts on his public profile show he used the platform for several years until 2010, when he posted saying that he had moved to Ruinerwold – the village where the house is located.
The profile then goes silent until June this year, when it suddenly reactivated with a post announcing that Jan was working as an online store manager at Creconat, located in Meppel – a village around four miles from Ruinerwold.
‘Creativity for everyone!’ the post says.
Creconat is associated with a timber company called Native Creative Economy, also based in Meppel, which is owned by Josef B, according to De Telegraaf.
Police raided the premises on Monday, a neighbour said. It is not clear what, if anything, was found.
Jan spent his time on social media posting pictures of nature and promoting causes, such as climate strikes.
Police say they are puzzled by the case – a mystery that is deepened by the fact that Jan had access to social media and had been posting since June this year until the time he was rescued
Jan was active on Facebook until 2010, when it is thought his family moved to the house, before his profile went silent – only to activate again in June this year
Police were still present at the house on Wednesday, three days after the initial raid took place, as they try to answer key questions about what the family was doing there
On Saturday he uploaded three photos of landmarks around Ruinerwold that were taken in the dark. It is thought these were taken while he was walking to the bar.
It is thought he went to the bar three times before the barman – Chris Westerbeek – called police, describing Jan as dishevelled, confused and needing help.
Local media describe Josef B as a ‘wood-worker’ and ‘odd-jobs-man’ who had a small workshop of his own in Meppel.
A man named online as Tonnie, who had the workshop next to Josef’s, told Dutch news site ED that he was a highly skilled woodworker and often made parts for pleasure yachts. ‘A real craftsman,’ he said.
Alida ten Oever, who owned the house and rented it to Josef, said that he always paid rent on time and that she never saw signs of other people living at the property.
Neighbours told RTV Drenthe that Josef was a private man who never allowed visitors inside the house.
The house itself was set back 200 yards from the nearest road, and another 100 yards from the nearest building.
Pictures show it was surrounded by trees, blocking off the view, and also had a perimeter fence.
Vegetables were being grown in plots surrounding the property, while a goat was also kept there.
Josef was often seen watching over the property with binoculars, and would send away anyone who strayed too close.
Locals who visited said there was a security camera trained on the yard, and there were suspicions within the village that Josef was growing cannabis.
Police raided the property along with a workshop belonging to Josef B in the nearby village of Meppel, where Jan listed himself as working
Bar owner, Chris Westerbeek, recalled the 25-year-old man came in numerous times over a number of days and looked ‘confused’
Police spokesman Ramona Venema confirmed the family was found at the remote house
However, as news of the family spread, there was widespread shock and disbelief.
‘We are quite perplexed about it all,’ landlady Oever said.
Ruinerwold mayor Roger de Groot told a press conference that neither he nor the police had ever seen anything like it.
Speaking about the inside of the house, he added: ‘The police found a number of rooms with makeshift furnishings where the family lived a withdrawn existence. That is where the six were found.’
He denied that the family had been living in a basement.
A statement from local police said Josef B was refusing to cooperate with the investigation but was detained and being interrogated.
‘We understand that everyone still has many questions,’ a police spokesman said. ‘We do too. That is why we want to do our research thoroughly and carefully.
‘This means that we may not be able to answer everything immediately. Simply because sometimes we don’t have answers yet. Or we cannot share them.
‘We have called in a Large Scale Investigation Team (TGO). Investigators are probing possible criminal offenses under the leadership of the Public Prosecution Service.’