'The house was always locked': son hits out against kidnap-accused father

A US man suspected of holding three women captive inside his US home for a decade had padlocked the doors leading to his garage, basement and attic and forbidden his family from entering them, his son claims.

Ariel Castro, 52, had also spoken to his son Anthony just last month about the mysterious disappearance 10 years ago of Amanda Berry, who has been hailed a hero after breaking free from the home in Cleveland on Monday with the help of a neighbour.

Police sources in Ohio told news affiliate WKYC that Berry and two other women, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were repeatedly raped and beaten by their captors. The sources also said the young women, who were abducted in their teens, had had up to five pregnancies between them.

Anthony Castro told the Daily Mail that he had visited his father's home on Seymour Avenue two weeks ago, not suspecting that three women could be locked in the basement.

He said his father was a very secretive man and barred him from entering certain rooms when he wasn't around. Photographs taken inside the home show a padlock on the door leading to the basement.

"The house was always locked," Anthony said.

"There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage."

Anthony said his father last month asked him whether he thought police would ever find Amanda Berry, who disappeared in 2003.

When Anthony responded that he thought Berry was probably dead because she had been missing for so long, Ariel responded: "Really? You think so?"

It has since emerged that Berry had given birth to a baby girl during her time in captivity.

"If it's true that he took her [Berry] captive and forced her into having sex with him and having his child and keeping her hidden and keeping them from sunlight, he really took those girls' lives," Anthony said.

"He doesn't deserve to have his own life any more. He deserves to be behind bars for the rest of her life. I'm just thankful they're alive."

Following Berry's dramatic escape, Ariel was arrested alongside his two brothers, 54-year-old Pedro and 50-year-old Onil.

One neighbour told the Associated Press a naked woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago.

Another heard pounding on the home's doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows. Both times, police showed up but never went inside, neighbours said.

Anthony, a banker who lives in Columbus, Ohio, told the Daily Mail that his father was a violent man who separated from his mother in the 1990s.

He said his father nearly beat his mother to death in 1993 while she was recovering from brain surgery.

Anthony said he only spoke to his father a few times a year, and seldom visited his house.

"I haven't been at that house for longer than 20 minutes for longer than I can remember," Anthony said.

"And we're talking since high school. Late 90s.

"It's astonishing to even think about that I was so close to that. That I was physically at the house two weeks ago while that was going on, it's a lot to grasp."

Anthony said he had no idea what role his uncles could have played in the ordeal.

However, he said he didn't believe that the three women were kept at Ariel's house for the entire 10 years.

He said his uncle Onil, who also owns a house and lives alone, might have been involved in keeping the women in captivity.

"My dad's brothers were the two closest people to him. My dad's a really private person. If anybody knew what he was doing it would be those two," Anthony told the Daily Mail.

"My dad is the most – he is the strongest and most able-bodied about of them. My two uncles are frail. They've drunk themselves into terrible health."

Anthony was a journalism student at Bowling Green State University when Gina DeJesus went missing in April 2004.

At the time, Anthony wrote an article for his local paper which included quotes from her mother, Nancy Ruiz, who told him: "You can tell the difference. People are watching out for each other's kids. It's a shame that a tragedy had to happen for me to really know my neighbours.

"Bless their hearts, they've been great. People are really looking out for my daughter."

Authorities said it would be some time before the details of the ordeal came out, as FBI agents prepare to interview Berry, DeJesus and Knight.

Anthony Quiros, 24, who grew up next door to the house where the women were found, said Ariel Castro, a bus driver, had been an onlooker as police dug up a Cleveland lot looking for DeJesus's remains.

"He also came to a vigil and acted as if nothing was wrong," said Quiros. He said he saw Castro comforting DeJesus's mother about a year ago.

smh.com.au

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