French police on Monday said they had arrested a 55-year old German national after his wife was discovered naked in a pitiful state following what she said was 12 years in captivity at the couple’s home.
A police source said initially the woman, also German, was found with her head shaved in a bedroom of the apartment, had multiple injuries and was undernourished. She had probably been tortured, the source said.
The state of her health was “not good”, local prosecutor Olivier Glady told AFP after her examination by the local forensic medicine service.
But he later told a news conference that initial examinations had not found fractures or bruises, contrary to media reports.
Blood tests showed that she was not signficantly dehydrated, he said.
“The cursor is probably moving away from a scenario of horror, towards unsatisfactory conditions of the care of a sick person,” Glady said.
– No ‘Bluebeard’ –
“The current state of investigation appears us to move away from the spectre of a Bluebeard of the Moselle region,” the prosecutor added, a reference to “Bluebeard”, a French folk tale about a wealthy man who murders his wives.
Police said the bedroom and other rooms in the apartment were closed off with metal wire at the flat in Forbach in eastern France, near the German border.
That setup may have been meant to keep the household’s 10 cats in, Glady said.
A police source said the woman, who is 53, got access to a phone and called police in Wiesbaden, western Germany, who in turn alerted their French colleagues.
– ‘Maybe 10 years ago’ –
Over the years, the man had told everyone in the building that his wife had cancer, said Alicia, a neighbour.
“I never saw the lady, I don’t think she ever left the house,” she said.
“Sometimes I heard screams,” Alicia said, but added that she thought they were caused by the illness.
About the man, she said: “Very polite, nice”.
Erika, another witness who lives in an adjacent street, said she last saw the woman “maybe 10 years ago”, and thought that “maybe she had died, or moved out”.
Police are investigating the man for kidnapping, aggravated rape, and acts of torture and barbarism, French broadcaster BFMTV said.
Broadcaster RMC said police found a diary-type notebook in which it was believed the man kept a record of his actions and of the times he gave his wife food but the prosecutor did not confirm this.
Police had already been called to the couple’s home in 2019, but said they did not detect any signs of trouble.
The man is jobless and believed to have worked in German industry previously, Glady said.
Police have extended his custody by 24 hours, the prosecutor said.