Castro in court

Ariel Castro bows his head in court today.
Ariel Castro bows his head in court today.

CLEVELAND — The man suspected of imprisoning three women for several years in the US city of Cleveland has made first court appearance.

Ariel Castro, 52, has been charged with kidnap and rape.

Bail was set at $2 million for each criminal charge that Castro faces, a total of $8 million.

The women were abducted at different times and held in a house in a suburban street for about a decade. One woman escaped on Monday and raised the alarm.

The police detained two of Castro’s brothers, but later said they appeared to have no involvement in the crime.

Ariel Castro owned the house from which Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, were rescued.

Police said the women could only remember being outside twice during their time in captivity, and were then only allowed into the garage.

Deputy police chief Ed Tomba said the women were not held in one room “but they did know each other and they did know each other was there”.

Berry escaped on Monday along with her six-year-old daughter Jocelyn, who was born in captivity.

A source told the BBC that one of the women was forced to help Berry deliver her daughter, and was threatened with death if the child did not survive.

In a news conference late yesterday, authorities said Castro would be charged with four counts of kidnapping.

The charges covered the three initial abduction victims and Jocelyn.

Castro was also charged with three counts of rape, one against each woman.

Police said more than 200 pieces of evidence had been taken from the home where the three women were held captive.

They said interviews with the women had yielded enough information to charge Ariel Castro, and that further charges could be added.

Police say Castro has been cooperating with them, waiving his right to silence and agreeing to a test to establish Jocelyn’s paternity.

Knight remains in hospital, while the other two women have been released to their families.

Greeted with cheers

Yesterday hundreds of people gathered around the DeJesus family home, cheering as Gina DeJesus was brought from hospital.

DeJesus, wearing a bright yellow hooded shirt, was escorted into her home by a woman with her arm around her, giving the well-wishers a brief wave.

Berry and her daughter arrived at her sister’s home shortly before midday yesterday.

She disappeared in 2003 aged 16, but escaped on Monday 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 DeJesus and Knight in the house.

DeJesus had gone missing aged 14 in 2004, while 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. (BBC)

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