Dutch man who reported family in farmhouse active on social media, escaped several times in past weeks

The 25-year-old man who triggered a massive investigation after revealing his family was living for years in isolation on a remote Dutch farm had made several trips to a local bar before police were called. He also had been active on social media recently.

The Drenthe Police Department revealed additional details on Tuesday of what they found on the farm in Ruinerwold, located 80 miles northeast of Amsterdam. Officials said the 25-year-old man reported he was worried about living the conditions of his family and, when officers arrived, they discovered six people in a "small space in the house which could be locked.”

"It was unclear whether they stayed there voluntarily," police said, adding that it was believed the seven people had been on the farm since 2010.

An aerial picture taken on October 15, 2019 shows a view of the farm where a father and six children had been living in Ruinerwold, northern Netherlands.

An aerial picture taken on October 15, 2019 shows a view of the farm where a father and six children had been living in Ruinerwold, northern Netherlands. (WILBERT BIJZITTER/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

None of the family members were registered as residents of the town. They claim to be a father with six of his children, according to police.

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While officials have not publicly identified the 25-year-old man, Dutch media has named him as Jan Zon van Dorsten.

A public Instagram account allegedly linked to van Dorsten shows 12 posts since July, with three photos taken in the Ruinerwold village on Sunday before he allegedly walked into a bar "completely confused" and police were contacted. The man also has a Facebook that lists him as being born in January 1994, according to RTV Drenthe.

A photo posted in September appears to show construction inside a building on the farm that the 25-year-old captioned "the other half of my work."

Another photo appeared to have been taken as van Dorsten was traveling from the farm to a bar in the villiage, according to De Telegraaf.

About a week-and-a-half before police were contacted, the 25-year-old apparently made at least three trips into town from the farm and talked with at least one resident. Jeffrey Scheper, who owns a car dealership in Ruinerwold, told Dutch television program Beau on Tuesday he first saw the man in front of the bar in town.

"It was raining enormously outside, so we took him inside and offered him a beer," Scheper said. "He looked confused, but we didn't immediately think that something was wrong."

The small group of buildings after a family group were discovered to be living in secluded conditions in Ruinerwold, 80 miles northeast of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday Oct. 15, 2019.

The small group of buildings after a family group were discovered to be living in secluded conditions in Ruinerwold, 80 miles northeast of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday Oct. 15, 2019. (RTL Netherlands via AP)

Scheper said the man, who was transfixed on a disco lamp as if he never had seen one before, was looking for work and came by his parents' house the following day asking for new clothes, broadcaster RTV Drenthe reported.

During a third trip to the bar, he spoke with owner Chris Westerbeek who said he ordered five beers for himself and was "dressed in 80s clothing" with unkempt hair and a long beard. The bar owner told De Telegraaf the 25-year-old claimed he had run away and "couldn't go home."

Scheper said the pair tried asking van Dorsten questions about why he had not been outside for nine years.

"Is it a belief? A cult? He said yes, nothing more," he told Beau on Tuesday, according to RTV Drenthe.

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A man described by police as a "tenant of the building" who had paid the rent on the farm was detained. The Public Prosecution Service said Wednesday the 58-year-old man arrested at the farm will be brought before a judge on Thursday and is currently suspected of holding the family against their will.

Mayor Roger de Groot had said on Tuesday that the 58-year-old was not the father of the family, and that the mother of the siblings, aged 18 to 25, is believed to have died "a number of years ago."

Dutch authorities were Tuesday trying to piece together the story of a  family group believed to have lived for nine years on a farm, isolated from the outside world in the rural east of the Netherlands.

Dutch authorities were Tuesday trying to piece together the story of a  family group believed to have lived for nine years on a farm, isolated from the outside world in the rural east of the Netherlands. (RTL Netherlands via AP)

“The man is still in custody and is being questioned,” Drenthe police spokeswoman Grietje Hartstra told Reuters. “A lot is still unclear and we are investigating exactly what happened there.”

The 58-year-old man was named as "Josef B." and originally born in Austria, according to Dutch newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden. The owner of the farm told De Telegraaf she "never saw anything wrong" on the property and the 58-year-old paid the rent on time.

But one neighbor told reporters on Tuesday the 58-year-old was "a strange figure," and that the property had security cameras surrounding it.

“Even when he was gone, we heard noises there. From a lawnmower for example. So there must be someone else. But no idea who," the neighbor told De Telegraaf.

Drone images of the farm showed a cluster of buildings with a large vegetable garden on one side. The small property appeared to be ringed by a fence and largely obscured by trees.

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While Dutch media reported the family was living on the farm allegedly "waiting for the end of time," officials have not released any additional details. A Large Scale Investigation Team is now operating at the farm, and investigators are probing possible criminal charges, according to police.

"We understand that everyone still has many questions. We have that, too. That is why we want to do our research thoroughly and carefully," police said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.