The father of six children who spent nine years in a farmhouse basement was a former Moonie “trying to create a cult of his own” and has been arrested for holding his brainwashed offspring against their will, Dutch media reported.
Gerrit-Jan van Dorsten, the bedridden patriarch of the basement-dwelling clan, is the second person to be arrested over the shocking discovery of the six adult siblings living in a farmhouse cellar in Drenthe province.
He and a friend, both former members of the Unification Church – commonly known as “Moonies” after its founder, Sun Myung Moon – were reportedly trying to start their own brainwashing cult. Josef Brunner, whom neighbors had believed to be the farmhouse’s sole occupant, was taken into custody earlier this week after the oldest son in the family escaped and raised the alarm about their plight.
The two men were trying to start their own cult, according to Unification Church members who spoke to Dutch media. After van Dorsten left the group, he moved to Germany and they “lost sight of him” – but rumor was that he’d set up a group of his own “with his family.”
The six adult van Dorsten children were moved to a holiday park after their basement prison – accessible only through a secret passage behind a kitchen cupboard – was discovered. But their cult rituals, including walking circles every half-hour, disturbed other guests, forcing authorities to move them elsewhere. The 25-year-old son who sought help from the pub owner has been moved to a separate location from his siblings, some of whom had been reduced to communicating in a “fantasy language” because of their isolation, authorities said.
Van Dorsten has been charged with “depriving people of their liberty, harming the health of others and money laundering,” police said in a statement on Thursday.
Authorities found tens of thousands of euros piled up at the farmhouse, believed to be donations from the Moonies. The sect confirmed van Dorsten was a member on Friday in a statement that noted he “suffered from mental health problems” and left in 1987. It claimed to have no records of Brunner’s involvement. A cousin of van Dorsten’s still with the group claimed those mental health problems were what got him kicked out of the cult in the first place.
“At some point he got certain ideas in his head. Crazy ideas… He started talking and discussing that, but they immediately said, ‘no, we don’t want anything to do with it.’ At one point our church said: we cannot go any further with you,” he told Dutch outlet Algemeen Dagblad.
Van Dorsten’s family had not heard from him in decades and feared he was dead when he did not attend his mother’s funeral.
Authorities are still investigating whether “a certain religion or philosophy” played a role in the family’s nine-year isolation, during which none of the children attended school or apparently understood there were other people in the world. Even the house’s owner said she had no idea there was anyone living there – least of all a cult “waiting for the end times.”
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