Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Three US women missing for years rescued in Ohio

A neighbour, Charles Ramsey, tells reporters: "We had to kick open the bottom of the door"

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Three young women who vanished about a decade ago in the US state of Ohio have been found and are in hospital in a fair condition, officials have said.

Amanda Berry disappeared aged 16 in 2003, while Gina DeJesus went missing at the age of 14 a year later.

They and Michele Knight, 32, who vanished in 2002 at the age of 20, were found in a house in the city of Cleveland, police confirmed.

Three brothers have been arrested in connection with the case.

Cleveland police said the suspects are Hispanic, aged 50, 52 and 54, and one of them had lived at the house on Seymour Avenue.

Gina DeJesus' uncle said they were in shock but very grateful for her discovery.

"In all this time, 10 years, nobody never figured nothing about where she was at and this has come to an end and it's right here on Seymour," he said.

Meanwhile, a doctor confirmed the three women were being kept in hospital for observation.

"This isn't the ending we usually hear to these stories," said Dr Gerald Maloney in a brief news conference outside Metro Health hospital in Cleveland. "We're very happy."

Speaking amid cheers from spectators, he added the women were able to speak to hospital staff but he declined to give further details.

The BBC's Jane Little says it was assumed the girls were dead, and the mother of one victim said she believed her daughter had been sold into slavery.

Police have said a six-year-old was also found at the home. They have not revealed any further details, although a relative of Amanda Berry said she told him she had a daughter.

'Here a long time'

In a frantic call to police released to the news media, Ms Berry identified her captor as Ariel Castro. She said she had escaped after he had left the house.

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After disappearing a decade ago at the age of 16, Amanda Berry (right) is finally reunited with her sister (left).
Continue reading the main story

Local news stations say Mr Castro is one of the men in police custody.

"I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been found alive," Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said.

"We have many unanswered questions regarding this case and the investigation will be ongoing."

A neighbour said he had seen a woman screaming for help at the front door of the house.

Photos of Berry (left) and DeJesus were distributed widely after they went missing

Charles Ramsey said he suggested the woman open the door and exit, but she told him it was locked.

"We had to kick open the bottom," he said. "Lucky on that door it was aluminium. It was cheap. She climbed out with her daughter."

Mr Ramsey then sheltered the woman, who said there were others in the house.

Ms Berry was last heard from when she called her sister on 21 April 2003 to say she would get a lift home from work at a Burger King restaurant.

In 2004, Ms DeJesus was said to be on her way home from school when she went missing.

Their cases were re-opened last year when a prison inmate tipped off authorities that Ms Berry may have been buried in Cleveland. He received a four-and-a-half-year sentence in prison for the false information.

Amanda Berry's mother, Louwana, died in March 2006, three years after her daughter's disappearance.

Gina DeJesus' aunt Sandra Ruiz: "She knew we were looking for her"

Although much is still not yet known about this case, it recalled a series of recent high-profile child abduction cases.

Jaycee Lee Dugard was 11 years old when she was dragged into a car as she walked to a bus stop near her home in South Lake Tahoe, California in 1991.

She was discovered in August 2009, having spent 18 years held captive in the backyard of Phillip and Nancy Garrido in Antioch, some 170 miles from South Lake Tahoe. She had two children.

In Austria, Natascha Kampusch was abducted on her way to school at the age of 10. She was held for eight years by Wolfgang Priklopil in the windowless basement of a house in a quiet suburb of Vienna.

She managed to escape in 2006 while Priklopil was making a phone call. He committed suicide hours after she had fled.

Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was taken from the bedroom of her Utah home in June 2002 and repeatedly raped during nine months of captivity.

She was rescued in March 2003 less than 20 miles from her home. Her abductor, Brian David Mitchell, was jailed for life in 2011.--
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