Girl ‘struggles to climb stairs’ after being rescued for almost 7 years, believed to be held captive by her family
Berlin: — Prosecutors in Germany are detaining a mother and grandparents accused of holding a woman’s eight-year-old daughter captive for most of her life in a small-town German home.
There are still many unanswered questions in this case, but the details that have emerged are shocking. The girl was allegedly held for almost seven years in a house in Attendorn, about 20 miles east of Cologne. After being rescued by police, the girl said she never saw a forest or a meadow or got into a car, according to the local Sauerlandkurier newspaper, which cited documents from the regional children’s hospital.
Police and local child protective services searched the home on September 23 and rescued the girl. A medical examination found her to be in relatively good health and she was transferred to an emergency foster family.
Siegen’s prosecutor’s office said the child’s mother and grandparents were under formal investigation.
The prosecutor’s office said the girl showed no clear signs of physical abuse or malnutrition.
“However, the girl has never seen the outside world,” senior prosecutor Patrick Baron von Grottus told the German DPA agency. He said the girl is believed to have lived in the Atendorn home for almost seven years without ever getting permission. He was able to talk and walk, but “could hardly climb stairs on his own or overcome uneven ground.”
The mother and grandparents would not provide any information to investigators, officials said.
In 2014, the mother allegedly told the girl’s father, from whom she had separated before the birth of her daughter, that she wanted to move to Italy with their child. But suspicions began to grow that he went ahead with the plan, even though he sent it to a shipping address in Italy.
In September 2015, the father told child protective services that he had seen the mother several times walking around town. When questioned by authorities, the grandparents said their daughter had moved to Italy with the child.
The father said letters and gifts he sent his daughter to an Italian address were returned unopened.
Child Protective Services also received anonymous tips that the mother, at least, may be in Atendorn. Recent attempts by authorities to contact the grandparents have been rebuffed, and officials have been denied entry to the home. The police were also not allowed by the grandparents to enter the house, but due to the obvious lack of evidence, no search warrant was issued.
Finally, a relative on the mother’s side of the family contacted the police and said that he and his wife had recently visited relatives in Italy with whom the girl and her mother were to live. The Italian relatives said that neither the mother nor the daughter had ever lived there.
The girl’s mother was then contacted by phone at her grandparents’ home in Atendorn, and authorities finally obtained the search warrant they needed.
The mother and grandparents are accused of illegal deprivation of liberty and violence.
Family acquaintances are also being interrogated.
The next step, according to von Grottus, is a thorough evaluation of the little girl’s mental and physical condition, and he said it is “highly likely” that the mother will also undergo a psychiatric evaluation and, if necessary, the other accused.
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