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Doomsday cult guru ‘Josef the Austrian’ thought he was ‘better than Jesus’ as he kept family in farm house dungeon – The Sun

AN ALLEGED doomsday cult leader accused of keeping a family of six in a dungeon for nine years is a "persuasive" guru who believes he is "better than Jesus", his brother said today.

The mysterious carpenter – nicknamed Josef the Austrian by neighbours – is due in court today after Dutch police raided an isolated farm and rescued a bedridden father and his five grown-up children.

The shocking case has sparked questions as to how nobody knew the Van Dorsten family were apparently locked inside a windowless room under the rundown farmhouse near Ruinerwold.

Suspect Josef Brunner, 58, paid the rent on the farm and tended the vegetable plot daily but did not live there, according to reports.

The handyman will be quizzed on his involvement by a magistrate behind closed doors today, suspected of "unlawful detention and injuring the health of others", prosecutors said.

More details of his background emerged today including claims he joined a religious sect in the army, abandoned twins he fathered with a Japanese cult member, and had another "seven or eight children" with a wife that he also left behind when he moved to Holland.

Josef's own brother gave a damning account when tracked down by an Austrian newspaper reporter to his family farm 90 miles west of Vienna.

Franz Brunner said younger sibling Josef was "greedy and lazy" and did not come home for either of his mother and father's funerals.

He told the Kronen Zeitung: "Josef had a very strong persuasiveness.

"He was with a sect – he felt himself better than the Jesus."


Franz, in his 60s, said he has had no contact with Josef for ten years since he demanded money after the eldest brother inherited the farm.

He said: "My brother was only ever interested in what was best for him.

"When my father handed over the farm to me, the problems with Josef started.

"He always wanted money. One day when he asked me if I wanted to stand surety for a loan from the bank – possibly to pay off debts – I sent him away."

Josef drifted to various parts of Austria before moving in with a wealthy aunt – how made him her heir, Franz said.

He worked there as a carpenter, and when she died he sold her 300-year-old house and its land.

That was around the same time he met Gerrit-Jan van Dorsten, 67, who has been named locally as the ailing father of the "imprisoned" family.

Gerrit-Jan used to run a toy shop and a timber firm, according to reports in Holland.

After his wife died around 2008, leaving him a single dad to five young kids, he appears to have fallen further under the spell of Josef, his next-door neighbour in the Dutch town of Hasselt.

Former neighbour Sandra Soer said the family already had a reclusive life back then and showed sign of belonging to a cult.

She told RTV Drenthe: "The children had names that refer to the faith. They were taken to school by car and did not play on the street.

"The majority were born in this house. There was no midwife involved. They all did that themselves."

The Van Dorsten family are thought to have moved to the farmhouse near Ruinerwold in 2010, but were not registered with authorities.

Meanwhile Josef was "not interested" when his sisters told him about their parents' deaths, and rebuffed attempts get to get in touch from his grown-up daughters as recently as 2017.

Franz said when he heard about the bizarre case in Holland on the news, he immediately suspected his brother was involved.

He added to Dutch paper De Stentor: "Only when I learned more details about the case and heard the age of the suspect did I know that it was Josef."

The farm was raided on Monday after Gerrit's eldest son Jan Zon van Dorsten, 25, walked to a bar and raised the alarm.

His siblings, all now aged 18 and over, were rescued along with their bedridden dad, who is said to have suffered a stroke.

Police found "makeshift living quarters" with a lock down secret stairs hidden behind a cupboard.

It is not known if they were held there against their will.

Reports have claimed the brainwashed kids were "waiting for the end of days" as part of an apocalyptic cult, and some of the younger siblings thought they were the only humans on Earth.

Police revealed some of the victims can no longer talk properly after their nine-year ordeal and speak in a bizarre "fantasy language".

Officers had great difficulty understanding the "incomprehensible" victims who slept and ate on the floor of the windowless room, according to local reports.

Only the eldest son appears to have had any contact with the outside world. He began posting on social media in June, after nine years of silence.

On Sunday evening straggly-haired Jan Zon walked into a bar where he downed five beers before confessing he needed help

It was apparently his third visit in recent days – but he did not have the courage to speak to anyone on his first two trips.

Owner Chris Westerbeek said: "I had a chat with him and he revealed he had run away and needed help… then we called the police.

"He had long hair, a dirty beard, wore old clothes and looked confused. He said he'd never been to school and hadn't been to the barber for nine years.

"He said he had brothers and sisters who lived at the farm. He said he was the oldest and wanted to end the way they were living."

Neighbours said handyman "Josef the Austrian" visited the farm every day in a Volvo, tended the vegetable patch and looked after the goat and a few geese, and also did repairs.

His arrest shocked locals, who had no idea there was anyone else at the house – which is 200 yards back from the road and surrounded by high fences and CCTV cameras.

One told Germany's Bild newspaper: "The man has renovated all this alone, came with his trailer and building materials. I've always wondered 'how can he do it all on his own?'

"He must have had help, it can not be done on his own."

Another told Dutch TV: ""You only had to get close to the yard and he sent you away. He was watching everything with binoculars."

The six alleged victims are being cared for at an undisclosed location.

Police said they found the family in a "small space in the house which could be locked" and that it was unclear whether they were being held against their will.

Officials have not commented on reports that the family may have held "end of days" apocalyptic beliefs.

Drenthe police spokeswoman Grietje Hartstra said: "There is a lot of speculation in the media about what happened, but as police we deal with facts.

"We still have a lot of unanswered questions."

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