BBC News

Cleveland rescue: The mystery of 2207 Seymour Avenue


Ariel Castro's house at 2207 Seymour Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, is yet to give up many of its secrets.

What lies inside the run-down clapboard house where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are said to have spent their captivity?

The house appears to have been the scene of a double life - as Mr Castro's home and as a kidnap den where he is alleged to have held three women captive for almost a decade.

The two-storey building stands right in the middle of a tree-lined street in Cleveland's West Side neighbourhood - a working-class area home to a close-knit community.

Few details have been confirmed about what it contains, but some facts are known.

Mr Castro bought the house in 1992 for $12,000 (£7,750), according to the Cuyahoga County Auditor's office. In 2012, it was valued at $36,100 (£23,300).

The property currently faces repossession over the non-payment of taxes, with Mr Castro owing some $2,501 (£1,615) in taxes for the period 2010-12.

The property has four bedrooms, a bathroom, a 760sq ft (71sq m) basement, two porches and an attic. There is also a detached garage.

The continuing investigation and charges of kidnap and rape levelled at Mr Castro centre on what happened to the women while they were in the house.

Ariel Castro's son, Anthony - who says he visited the house just two weeks ago - told MailOnline that the doors to the basement, the attic and the garage were always padlocked and family members were not allowed to go there.

Anthony Castro described his father as a violent and controlling man, who beat him and nearly killed his mother in the early 1990s.

After years of abuse, his mother decided to move out of the house in 1996, taking him and his three sisters with her, Mr Castro said.

"It's astonishing to even think... 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," he said.

media captionNeighbours of Ariel Castro speak to the BBC

Police are yet to release any pictures from the inside of the property, but one law enforcement official has described the conditions there as "abysmal at best".

"They (the women) had no ability to leave the home or interact with anyone other than each other, the child and the suspect," the official told the New York Times.

Media reports also suggest that the authorities have discovered chains and tape inside the house allegedly used to restrain the women.

A police report suggests the women were all initially kept chained in the cellar, but eventually allowed to live on the second floor of the house.

One report cites the victims as saying the "big inside door" of the home was usually locked when Mr Castro went out. On Monday, he apparently forgot to lock it as he went to a nearby McDonald's.

Even so, Amanda Berry was afraid to break open the locked storm door because "she thought Ariel (Castro) was testing her," said the police report.

Instead, she tried to get the attention of neighbours to help; her screams were heard by Charles Ramsey who lived across the street and came to the rescue.

Police say officers were sent to the house twice, in 2000 and 2004.

In March 2000, Ariel Castro reported a fight on the street - but no arrests were made. In January 2004 police went to the address after Mr Castro, then a school bus driver, reportedly left a child on a bus. No-one appeared to be in the house.

An investigation later found no criminal intent by Mr Castro, police told local news site

Several miscarriages

Rather than celebrating their birthdays, in a bizarre ritual, the captor would apparently give his victims cake to mark their "abduction day", one victim's cousin was quoted as telling US media.

In recent years, the kidnapper was occasionally seen walking in the area with a young girl - apparently Jocelyn, whom he fathered with Ms Berry and with whom he also visited relatives, reported the New York Times.

One cousin from Ohio said Mr Castro had visited with a well-presented girl a couple of years ago, whom the suspect had introduced as his granddaughter.

Apparently the suspect had insisted Jocelyn was not told the names of Ms Knight or Ms DeJesus in case she repeated them in public.

None of the victims was allowed to see a doctor during their captivity: A police report suggests Jocelyn was born in a plastic pool and delivered with the assistance of Ms Knight.

Ms Knight had told police her captor had threatened to kill her if the baby died, says the New York Times report.

She said Jocelyn stopped breathing at one stage, but that she had administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to keep her alive.

For her part, Ms Knight was reportedly impregnated by her captor five times - only for him to starve her and repeatedly punch her in the abdomen until she miscarried, added the newspaper.

Ms DeJesus told police she did not think she became pregnant during her captivity.

'Didn't look right'

Views of Mr Castro himself are mixed. To some in the area he appeared to be "a regular Joe", but some locals claim warning signs were always there.

media captionElsie Cintron told the BBC her granddaughter had seen a "naked lady crawling in the backyard" of the suspect's house

Mike Kazimore, a local postman, said he visited Mr Castro's porch virtually everyday for the last 12 years to deliver mail. "It looked like a normal house," he told the BBC.

Niki Greiner, another resident, said the property was usually "quiet", although "sometimes you would hear music".

"But I would never see the man come out of there or hear any noises. It's just like he was there but not there," Ms Greiner said.

James King says the house "did not look right" because it had boarded-up windows. "You could not see through," he says.

A police report says the victims were only ever allowed to leave the house to go into the back garden, where "they had to wear wigs and sunglasses and keep their heads down".

Local resident Elsie Cintron told the BBC she started to have concerns after her granddaughter told her she had seen a "naked lady crawling in the backyard of his house".

"That's when I got sick to my stomach. I told my grandchildren to stay away from there.

"What else got me was a little girl up in the attic window. Where did she come from? Who's her mother?"

The girl was, apparently, Jocelyn.

Mrs Cintron also says she alerted police at the time - but that authorities did not seem to be interested.

Other residents claim they have made multiple calls to police regarding suspicious activity at the house.

They include sightings of women crying for help, the sound of pounding on the doors and of Mr Castro allegedly taking a small girl for early-morning walks.

More on this story

  • Cleveland rescue: Key videos