Man in France released after wife’s claim of captivity is disputed

A French prosecutors said Tuesday that a man accused of holding his wife captive is being released without charges after her claims appeared to be unfounded.

Police on Monday said they arrested the 55-year-old man after his wife claimed he had held her captive in their home for 12 years. The woman said her husband had raped and tortured her repeatedly, but officials could not corroborate those claims.

The public prosecutor, Olivier Glady, ordered him released from custody the following day, saying there were no grounds for charges. The prosecutor said the wife was suffering from several health issues and that her claims were not founded in reality.

Glady said Tuesday that the woman had been questioned for several hours and maintained her accusations against her husband. However, Glady said that it was clear she was not held captive.

He said the husband told him that the woman suffered from an autoimmune disease that left her disabled, and that the couple had not sought medical assistance for her condition. He said the couple, both German nationals, did not speak French and that had stopped them trying to find a doctor or sign up for public health insurance. 

The prosecutor said the woman was still in the hospital as the authorities tried to find a better solution for her medical care.

The couple lived in the village of Forbach, in the Moselle region of eastern France, just across the border from Germany.

A photograph shows the entrance to the building where a couple lived in Forbach, eastern France, on August 7, 2023, after French police said they had arrested a 55-year-old German national.

Emergency services in Wiesbaden, Germany, received a phone call very early Monday morning from a woman who claimed she had been held captive and tortured by her husband since 2011. German authorities contacted their French counterparts who sent police officers to the address at 6 a.m. local time.

The local prosecutor told reporters the police found the 53-year-old woman in a bedroom of the apartment. She was taken to the hospital and her husband was taken into custody, before later being released.

Early media reports suggested the woman was malnourished and her head had been shaved. However, the prosecutor said that the woman’s illness had caused hair loss and left her emaciated.

Doctors who examined her in the hospital said that there were no signs of bruising on her body, and X-rays showed no traces of fractures.

The prosecutor added that there was no conclusive evidence that she was malnourished or dehydrated.

A neighbor who lives on the same floor of the apartment block told reporters that the man told everyone that his wife had cancer. “We never saw the wife,” she said. “We heard cries sometimes, I thought it was because of the pain of the illness.”

The wife told police she had been tortured, and there were early reports that her husband had a box of torture tools. But the prosecutor said that, despite a thorough search of the apartment, no such items were found. No evidence of brutality was found, he said.

The prosecutor said an investigation was underway to determine the circumstances of the woman’s care and the extent of her illness, and why she told police she was being held against her will and abused. He added that, after 12 hours of investigation, it seemed unlikely that charges of false imprisonment and torture would be brought against the man.

The husband, who has denied the allegations, is not known to French police, according to the prosecutor. Inquiries have been made to German police.

The prosecutor did, however, confirm that police had been called to the home in 2019 when neighbors complained of the noise and said they were concerned she was being beaten. No action was taken at that time.


  • France
  • Germany
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