Rape ordeals of women held in grim captivity

A man has appeared in court on charges of rape and kidnapping days after three women missing for about a decade were found alive at his home.

Ariel Castro looked down at the ground while lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, spoke to the judge. Bond was set at two million dollars (£1.29m) on each case.

Police say they have talked to both Castro, who is a former school bus driver, and the three women at length in building their case.

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While they were not revealing many details, police did say the women were kept inside Castro’s house for all but a few brief minutes over the last 10 years.

The three women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004 and were found on Monday after one of them screamed for help to escape and contacted police.

Castro bit his collar and signed documents with his handcuffed hands. He did not speak.

The women found alive after a decade in captivity endured lonely, dark lives inside a dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times in disguises while walking to a garage steps away, investigators say. The 52-year-old former school bus driver has emerged as the lone suspect.

While many questions remain about how Castro maintained such tight control over the women for so many years before one of them made a daring escape on Monday, the horrors they suffered are beginning to come to light.

Police say the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains at times and were kept in different rooms. They suffered prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and had miscarriages, according to a city official briefed on the case.

Castro has been charged with four counts of kidnapping – covering the captives and the daughter born to one of them – and three counts of rape, against all three women.

The women and Castro have given lengthy statements to police that have helped build their case, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba. None of the women, though, gave them any indication that Castro’s two older brothers, who have been in custody since Monday, were involved. Prosecutors brought no charges against the brothers, citing a lack of evidence. “Ariel kept everyone at a distance,” Mr Tomba said.

One thing that remains a mystery, he said, is how the women were kept in the house so long. “As far as the circumstances inside the home and the control he may have had over those girls ... I think that’s going to take us a long time to figure that out,” he said.

The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004. At the time, they were 14, 16 and 20.

Authorities would not discuss the circumstances of their kidnapping and captivity. City councilman Brian Cummins earlier said: “We know that the victims have confirmed miscarriages, but with who, how many and what conditions we don’t know. It sounds pretty gruesome.”.

They never saw a chance to escape over the last 10 years until this week when Amanda Berry broke through a door and ran to freedom, alerting police who rescued the other two women while Castro was away from the house.

In newly released police audio tapes, an emergency dispatcher notifies officers on Monday that she has just spoken to a woman who “says her name is Amanda Berry and that she had been kidnapped 10 years ago”. An officer on the recorded call says: “This might be for real.”

After police arrive at the house, women can be heard crying in the background. Then an officer tells the dispatcher: “We found ’em. We found ’em.”

Mr Tomba said of Berry, “Something must have clicked and she saw an opportunity and she took that opportunity.” He said the women could remember being outside only twice during their entire time in captivity.

“We were told they left the house and went into the garage in disguise,” he said.

Also in the house was Berry’s six-year-old daughter. A paternity test was being carried out.