US & Canada

Ariel Castro 'hell' house demolished in Cleveland

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Media captionSpectators watched as the house where Ariel Castro held Amanda Berry, Gina De Jesus and Michelle Knight captive was demolished

The house in Cleveland, Ohio, where Ariel Castro held three women in brutal captivity for years has been torn down.

At about 07:30 local time (11:30 GMT), a wrecking machine smashed through the house to begin the demolition.

Castro, 53, a former school bus driver, was sentenced to life in prison last week after admitting hundreds of rape, kidnapping and other charges.

He abducted Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, from the Cleveland streets between 2002-04.

Authorities say he kept the women chained for long periods in the house, beating and starving them and forcing one of them to miscarry several pregnancies.

Cheering onlookers

The women were freed in May after one of them escaped while Castro was out of the house, and summoned help.

He was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years on 1 August.

Image caption Michelle Knight, centre, visited the house where she was held captive for 11 years
Image caption The demolition was part of a deal made in court that spared Castro the death penalty
Image caption It took workers less than two hours to bring down the building
Image caption Contractors were instructed to shred building material for fear that people would try to sell it online

On Wednesday morning, Ms Knight spent several minutes in front of the house where she was held for 11 years as Castro's captive, a period she had described at his sentencing as "hell".

Rosary beads hanging from her neck, she released balloons into the air and said: "Dear Lord, give the missing people strength and power to know that they are loved.

"We hear their cry. They are never forgotten in my heart. They are caterpillars, waiting to turn into a butterfly. They are never forgotten, they are loved."

Then a crew of workers wearing high-visibility jackets tore the house down using heavy demolition kit, as neighbours and television crews looked on. Onlookers cheered.

Within minutes, the house was reduced to a pile of rubble.

Castro's neighbours in the working-class district of Cleveland had vowed to see the house demolished at the conclusion of the trial.