US & Canada

Ohio women were held with ropes and chains, police say

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Media captionAmanda Berry and Gina DeJesus have returned to their families after their ordeal

Cleveland's police chief has said the three women held captive in an Ohio house for about a decade were restrained with ropes and chains.

Michael McGrath told US broadcaster NBC that investigators believe the victims were allowed out in the backyard occasionally.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus have gone home and Michelle Knight was reportedly in a fair condition in hospital.

Chief McGrath said a charging decision would come later on Wednesday.

Former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, who owns the house where the women were found, has been arrested along with his two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50.

'Multiple-pregnancy reports'

Ariel Castro is accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing the three women; his brothers are accused of complicity in the same offences, according to arrest documents.

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Media captionCleveland kids react to missing girls' escape from house

Ms Berry, 27, arrived at her sister's home shortly before midday on Wednesday, along with her six-year-old daughter Jocelyn, who is understood to have been conceived and born in captivity.

The sister, Beth Serrano, read a statement asking for her family's privacy to be respected.

Several hours later, Ms DeJesus, 23, returned to her home in the city.

Meanwhile, Cleveland public safety director Martin Flask said no human remains had been found at the home, after "a thorough search". Police have said they are also investigating other properties.

Standing near the scene, Chief McGrath told NBC's Today Show: "Currently, today, we are interviewing the suspects that were arrested here the night before last. They are talking."

He said the women had been allowed out of the house "very rarely".

"They were released out in the backyard once in a while I believe," he said.

Chief McGrath disputed claims by neighbours that police did not fully investigate reports of suspicious activity at 2207 Seymour Avenue, which is in a working-class, mostly Puerto Rican district.

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Media captionUS kidnap victims Jaycee Lee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart pay tribute to Cleveland three

He also said he could not confirm reports that the captives had had multiple pregnancies.

Ms Berry, who disappeared in 2003 aged 16, escaped with the help of a neighbour who heard her screaming and kicking a door while her alleged captor was out of the house.

When police arrived they also found Ms DeJesus and Ms Knight, 32, in the house. Ms DeJesus had gone missing aged 14 in 2004, while Ms Knight had disappeared in 2002, aged 20.

Ariel Castro reportedly fled the neighbourhood, and was arrested at a nearby McDonald's restaurant, according to local media. It is unclear when his brothers were detained.

Image caption Ariel Castro (centre) and his brothers are in custody

Neighbours have told journalists they had made calls to police about the house in the past.

Elsie Cintron told the BBC her granddaughter had seen a naked woman crawling in the backyard last year and called police, but they did not take it seriously.

Another resident, Israel Lugo, said that in November 2011 he heard pounding on doors of the house and his sister saw a girl at the house holding a baby and crying for help.

He said he had called police and officers knocked several times on the front door, but left when no-one answered.

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Media captionElsie Cintron told the BBC her granddaughter saw a "naked lady crawling in the backyard"

Mr Lugo also said that Ariel Castro had taken six-year-old Jocelyn to play in a nearby park last week, and had identified her as "his girlfriend's daughter".

Puerto Rico-born Ariel Castro was reportedly a family friend of the DeJesuses, helping hand out fliers during the search for her, performing music at a fundraiser held in her honour and attending a candlelight vigil last year.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Johnson said on Tuesday the authorities had visited Ariel Castro's home in January 2004 after he was reported to have left a child on a school bus as he stopped for lunch.

But no-one answered the door and an inquiry found no criminal intent, officials said.

Backlash against 'psychic'

Mr Castro - who played bass guitar in Latin music bands in the area - was reportedly sacked as a school bus driver in November last year for "lack of judgment".

Image caption Left to right: Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry

His son, Anthony Castro, told London's Daily Mail newspaper that his father would not let him inside on his last visit to Seymour Avenue.

"The house was always locked," he said. "There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage."

In other developments:

  • There is an online backlash against self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne, who in 2004 told Ms Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, on TV her daughter was dead and her last words were "goodbye, mom, I love you". Ms Miller died in 2006 of heart failure, aged 43
  • The aunt of 14-year-old Ashley Summers, who disappeared in 2007 near the Castro home, said the FBI had been in touch with the family. "We're hoping for our miracle too," said Debra Summers
  • McDonald's says it wants to speak directly to Charles Ramsey, the neighbour who rescued Ms Berry. In a colourful interview that quickly went viral, he told how he was eating a snack from the restaurant as the scene unfolded