Prosecutors in Germany are holding a mother and grandparents accused of holding the woman’s eight-year-old daughter captive in a house in a small German town for almost her entire life.
There are still many unanswered questions in this case, but the details that have emerged are shocking: The girl was allegedly held in a house in Attendorn, about 20 miles east of Cologne, for almost seven years. After being rescued by police, the girl said she had never seen a forest or a meadow or ridden in a car, according to local newspaper Sauerlandkurier, which cited documents from a regional children’s hospital.
Police and the local child protection service searched the home on September 23 and rescued the girl. A medical examination found her to be in relatively good health and she was placed with an emergency foster family.
The public prosecutor’s office in Siegen said the child’s mother and grandparents were under formal investigation.
The girl showed no clear indications of physical abuse or malnutrition, the prosecutor’s office said.
“However, the girl has never seen the outside world,” senior prosecutor Patrick Baron von Grotthuss told the German news agency DPA. He said the girl is believed to have lived in the house in Attendorn for almost seven years, without ever being allowed to leave. She was able to speak and walk but was “hardly able to climb stairs on her own or overcome uneven ground.”
The mother and the grandparents were not providing investigators with any information, officials said.
In 2014, the mother allegedly told the girl’s father, from whom she had separated before her daughter’s birth, that she wanted to move to Italy with their child. But doubts started to mount that she had gone ahead with that plan, despite her providing a forwarding address in Italy.
In September 2015, the father told the child protection services that he had seen the mother walking around town several times. Questioned by authorities, the grandparents said their daughter had moved to Italy with the child.
The father said letters and gifts he sent to his daughter at the Italian address were all returned unopened.
The child protection services also received anonymous tips that the mother, at least, could be in Attendorn. Recent attempts by authorities to contact the grandparents were rebuffed, and officials were refused access to the house. Police were also not allowed into the house by the grandparents, but the due to an apparent lack of evidence, no search warrant was issued.
Finally, a relative from the maternal side of the family contacted police and said he and his wife had recently visited the relatives in Italy with whom the girl and her mother were supposed to live. The Italian relatives said that neither the mom nor the daughter had ever lived there.
Then the girl’s mother was reached by telephone at the grandparents’ house in Attendorn, and authorities finally got the search warrant they needed.
The mother and the grandparents face charges of illegal deprivation of liberty and abuse.
Family acquaintances are also being questioned.
The next step, according to von Grotthuss, is to thoroughly evaluate the mental and physical state of the little girl, and he said it was “highly probable” that the mother would also be examined psychiatrically and, if necessary, the other defendants.