The man immediately struck the bartender as a bit ****
His beard was disheveled, he was in a daze, and his clothes seemed straight out of the 1980 s. It was near closing time at Chris Westerbeek’s small pub in a rural Netherlands village, Café De Kastelein, and he sent the stranger away.
But a short time later, on Sunday night, the man returned and this time, Mr. Westerbeek decided to find out his story.
And what a story it was.
As the bearded man in the dated outfit quickly gulped down five beers, he said that for the last nine years, he and his siblings had barely seen the outside world. Instead, they were mostly confined to a small room in a Dutch farmhouse on the outskirts of the village of Ruinerwold “waiting for the end of days,” Mr.
“He said he was the oldest and wanted to end the way they were living,” Mr. Westerbeek told Dutch reporters. Westerbeek said.
By Monday, after the police went to the farmhouse and found the family living in strangely isolated conditions, the bearded man’s story had spread far and wide.
In a hyper-connected world, where people find it hard to put down their cellphones much less totally drop off the grid, there was immediate fascination with the strange tale of how a “doomsday family”could manage to go unnoticed for so long.
The police cautioned that much about the case remains under investigation, including why the family lived the way they did. Many of the details have come from Mr. Westerbeek, who spoke to the local Dutch television stationRTVand the national newspaperDe Telegraaf.He did not immediately respond to messages seeking additional comment.
In the small village of just 4, 00 0, the bearded man immediately stood and “looked confused,” Westerbeek said.
“He said he’d never been to school and hadn’t been to the barber for nine years,” he added.
The farm where the bearded man lived had a small vegetable garden and some livestock and was set back from the nearest road, shrouded from view by a line of trees.
The police confirmed that six adult siblings, between the ages of 18 and 25, who had been living on the farm were now receiving care. Their mother is believed to have died some time ago, officials said.
The father, according to local authorities, had suffered a stroke but was also living on the farm. Authorities also confirmed that the bearded man who fled the farm to seek help was the eldest of the six siblings.
A 58 – year-old man, identified by local reports as a handyman connected to the property, was taken into custody, but it was unclear how he was involved in the case.
Mayor Roger de Groot, during a news conference on Tuesday, said that the family had been living “an isolated lifestyle” and had been largely confined to their farm for at least nine years.
He added that several of the sibling’s births had never been registered. The police said in a statement that the family had not been registered in the municipality.
“I have never come across anything like this before,” he said.
But the police urged caution, saying much remained unknown.
“There is a lot of speculation in the media about what happened, but as police we have to deal with facts, ”a police spokeswoman, Grietje Hartstra, said. “We still have a lot of unanswered questions.”
Claire Moses contributed reporting.
Marc Santora is the Warsaw bureau chief, responsible for covering Central and Eastern Europe. He has reported extensively from the Middle East and Africa, including the war in Iraq, and has been a reporter on the Metro Desk.@MarcSantoraNYT