A man was detained after six alleged British children were found living in an abandoned wine cellar in Austria, triggering a major police investigation. The Telegraph reported the youngsters, aged between seven months and five years, were discovered in the illegal hideout in the small village of Orbritz with the 54-year-old and his wife.
According to the report, the investigation began after the man allegedly attacked social services with pepper spray and resisted local authorities outside the home. After he fled the scene, the social workers called the police who then raided the premises.
Upon their arrival, the man was found to have barricaded himself in the cellars and the police had to break into the compound and arrest the man. It is also reported that multiple guns were found in the cellar, which are now being checked for legal ownership.
The Austrian man is thought to be associated with Reichbürger, a right-wing extremist movement. According to local media, he became more interested in conspiracy theories once the war in Ukraine began.
The man was subsequently released on Thursday, January 26 after prosecutors said he posed no risk to the children. It is however unclear how long the family-of-eight had lived in the cellar but there were doors, windows, water and electricity. There were also surveillance cameras found outside the cellar.
Local authorities said they believed the family were living in the illegal hideout for several months but there had been complaints about them over the last few weeks. Erich Greil, Orbritz deputy mayor, said the residents sometimes heard children’s voices in the basement, but went quiet as soon as they approached the premises.
Police said there was also no suggestion of any sexual abuse of the children found in the cellar, and the children were neither locked up nor neglected. However, they were brought to a local hospital in the presence of their mother for a medical examination.
The children have since been taken into care after authorities were unable to find their Austrian birth records, and the parents claimed it was because their kids were born in England. It remains unclear if they have British citizenship.