German authorities helped free an 8-year-old girl whose mother allegedly held her captive inside her family’s home in Attendorn for seven years.
Authorities believe the girl, identified by the pseudonym Maria, had not set foot outside since she was a year and a half before she was rescued from her maternal grandparents’ home on Sept. 23.
“He couldn’t have gotten much of a glimpse of the outside world,” prosecutor Patrick Baron von Grotthuss told the local Sauerland Kurier newspaper.
Maria did not appear to be malnourished or physically abused, but she had some trouble climbing stairs. She was also described as curious and eloquent, according to Sauerland Kurier.
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Police in the Ople district, where Attendorn is located, placed Maria with a foster family after the rescue, according to a Nov. 6 statement.
Local government documents indicated that Maria’s mother moved them to Calabria, Italy, in June 2015, and Maria’s father had been unable to contact them since then, according to police.
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However, he told investigators that he had seen Maria’s mother in Attendorn, Sauerland Kurier reported.
The Ople authorities also received information indicating that the girl was still living with her mother and grandparents at their home in Attendorn in the years after her apparently feigned move to Italy.
The police did not find any solid evidence to substantiate those tips, and the accusations of possible danger to the children could not be substantiated. On the other hand, there was also no solid evidence to show that the girl lived in Italy with her mother, Ople authorities said.
In July, a couple with no direct connection to the girl’s family reported possible child abuse based on stories they heard from friends who were sure Maria was being held captive in her grandparents’ home. On July 14, an application for an administrative assistant for the Ople youth welfare office was initiated and sent to the Italian authorities. Two months later, on September 12, the juvenile welfare office received an email from Italian authorities stating that the boy’s mother had never lived at the claimed address in Italy.
On September 23, a family court withdrew certain custody rights from Maria’s parents and her mother was ordered to immediately transfer the 8-year-old girl from her care to the juvenile welfare office. That same day, the authorities raided the house of the girl’s grandparents and located her.
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The local prosecutor’s office is now investigating the boy’s mother and grandparents, who may face criminal charges.
Questions about why Maria’s mother and grandparents hid her at home for seven years remain a mystery, police said in their statement.