Beyond Room - The true stories of women who were kidnapped and found

Last weekend saw the release of perhaps not just one of the most popular Irish films from th...

09.54 20 Jan 2016

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Beyond Room - The true stories...

Beyond Room - The true stories of women who were kidnapped and found


09.54 20 Jan 2016

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Last weekend saw the release of perhaps not just one of the most popular Irish films from this year but ever.

Room, based on the book by Emma Donoghue, tells the story from the point of view of a young boy who has grown up in the captivity of a small room with just the company of his mother who was kidnapped.

However, even though this story tries to give the viewer and reader an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be imprisoned, it is fiction. But there are true stories, terrifying true stories of women who have spent years locked away from the real world.


Here are just some of those stories. The names of the women who were captured are purposely given precedence, not their captors.

Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus

On May 6th, 2013, the emergency services received a call from a woman stating: ""Help me, I'm Amanda Berry ... I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years. And I'm here. I'm free now."

Amanda was one of three women who were kidnapped by Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio.

Over the next decade, after they were imprisoned, the women were subjected to brutal rapes, threatened murder, assault and torture, all three of them describing being chained to a wall in Castro's home. Michelle Knight stated that she was pregnant on at least five occasions and that had lost the child after Castro induced miscarriages through beatings. Berry gave birth to a daughter in captivity.

After they escaped, Castro was charged and pled guilty to 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder (for the induced miscarriages). He was sentenced to life with a thousand years in prison but took his own life.

The women spoke publicly about their ordeal after their release.

Elisabeth Fritzl

Perhaps one of the more shocking cases to emerge in recent history is the well-known Fritzl case.

Abused by her father from the age of 11, Elisabeth was lured into the basement of their house where she would spend a further 24 years that consisted of rape, abuse and sexual assault.

Elisabeth's father, Josef, explained to her mother that their daughter had run away to a cult, they reported her missing and Josef forced his daughter to write letters declaring such from their basement. The basement existed behind a secret door which her mother, Rosemarie, never knew existed. In fact, Rosemarie declared after Elisabeth was found that she never knew anything about her daughter and presumed she had run away.

Elisabeth gave birth to seven children while living in what was essentially a prison cell. It was only when one of the children became gravely ill that she eventually ended up in a hospital and Josef's secret was discovered. He was arrested and faced trial. Elisabeth promised her testimony as long as she never had to see her father again.

Josef was sentenced to life in prison, a sentence he is currently carrying out in a former monastery in Austria. Elisabeth and her children live in an unnamed village and continue to undergo therapy for the events.

Colleen Stan 

One of the most extraordinary cases to emerge from the United States was that of Colleen Stan, a young 20-year-old who was kidnapped by Cameron Hooker in Red Bluff, California in 1977 and kept as a slave until 1984.

Hooker locked Stan in a box for 23 hours a day. Outside of that time, she was tortured and used to act out his bondage fantasies. His wife knew of her kidnap, in fact, she had agreed to it so that she wouldn't have to carry out the acts he demanded.

Over time, Stan was eventually let out into the mobile home the family shared and even allowed to look after the children. Hooker began raping her after he changed her name to Kay, her slave name. By 1981, Stan was allowed to visit her own family but never tried to escape.

It wasn't until Janice, Hooker's wife, decided she couldn't take anymore when he said he would take Stan as his second wife that things began to fall apart. She reported him and named him as a murderer in another case that he was never tried for.

Stan eventually went to college and completed an accounting degree. She now helps abused women.

Jaycee Lee Dugard

On June 10th, 1991, 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in front of witnesses by convicted sex offender, Phillip Garrido. Garrido had previously sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl and had been convicted of raping Katherine Callaway for five and a half hours in a Reno warehouse.

On the day she was kidnapped, Garrido and his wife Nancy pulled their car up beside Jaycee, shocked her unconscious with a stun gun and brought her to their home where they locked her in a soundproofed cabin in the back. He raped her a week later and within a couple of years, Jaycee was pregnant with her first child at just 13. She gave birth to her second daughter three years later.

Jaycee was imprisoned for 18 years and was only released when her captor, who was convinced he was a messenger for God, turned up at UC Berkeley accompanied by Jaycee and one of her girls. The authorities were alerted and it was only hours later that they managed to determine who Jaycee was (she had never been allowed to use her real name)

Garrido and his wife were arrested and charged and sentenced to 431 years and 36 years respectively. Jaycee had her mother read a statement in court which ended with the words: "You do not matter any more."

Elizabeth Smart

At the age of just 14, Elizabeth Smart was taken from her own bed in her own home in Salt Lake City while her sister slept next to her. An intense search began for her for the next nine months. 

Brian Mitchell, who worked as a handyman temporarily for the family, had broken into the home and kidnapped young Elizabeth. Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee, washed her feet and asked her to change to change into a robe garment for a marriage ceremony of sorts. After the ceremony, Mitchell raped her.

A massive regional search resulted in a report of a sighting of Mitchell with two people in the car, one of which was Smart. She was recognized by officers and promptly returned to her family.

It took almost eight years for Mitchell's case to come to court as he was deemed legally insane. The insanity plea was struck down and he was sentenced life in prison without parole. His wife was sentenced to 15 years for kidnapping.

Smart now works as an activist and contributor to ABC news on missing persons. She is married with one daughter.

For information on child abduction in Ireland you can log on to ISPCC.

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