Ohio Women Found: Police Praise Amanda Berry

Ohio Women Found: Police Praise Amanda Berry

Three brothers have been arrested after three women who went missing separately about a decade ago in Cleveland, Ohio, were found alive in the same house.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight disappeared in nearby areas of the city between 2002 and 2004. Officers believe they were tied up during years of being held captive.

The three, who vanished in their teens or early 20s, were rescued after a neighbour heard Ms Berry screaming and went to help her.

Police hailed her bravery and said the women's actions were the "ultimate definition of survival and perseverance".

The suspects arrested in connection with the kidnappings have been named as Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro, aged 52, 54 and 50.

The property where the women were being held is just a few miles from where they vanished.

They appeared to be in good health and were released from hospital after being taken there for checks, later being reunited with their families.

Authorities said they had no intelligence the three women were in the house. Police believe a six-year-old girl who was with Ms Berry when she escaped is her daughter.

Forensics and FBI teams have been carrying out an extensive search of the property, where police sources quoted in the local media believe the women were repeatedly beaten and raped - and there were five pregnancies.

FBI special agent Stephen Anthony said: "The nightmare is over. These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.

"The families of these three ladies never gave up hope, and neither did law enforcement. As you can imagine, words can't describe the emotions being felt by all."

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said there were still "several unanswered questions" about the case, and authorities stressed that as the investigation was ongoing, many facts could not be discussed.

Police revealed they went to the home in 2004 for an unrelated investigation when school bus driver Ariel Castro had apparently left a child unattended on a bus, but no-one answered the door.

Officers also visited the property in 2000 when Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made.

Sky's US correspondent Dominic Waghorn, at the scene, said: "Neighbours say there were some unusual things about Ariel Castro - the fact that he keeps his ground floor windows boarded up with plywood ... and he used to park his school bus here during the day just to drop in and check on something, but never explained why.

"But they say he seemed such a good man, and a good neighbour, they never suspected anything."

Elsie Cintron, who lived two doors away, told Sky News that a family member saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the back garden of the Cleveland house and a young girl was seen at the attic window.

Ms Cintron said the police were called, but no action was apparently taken. Cleveland officials, however, said they had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house - but they were still combing their records.

Ms Berry, who was 16 at the time, disappeared on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a lift home from her job at a Burger King outlet.

Ms DeJesus went missing aged 14 on her way home from school about a year after Ms Berry's disappearance.

The third woman, Ms Knight, had been missing since 2002. She is believed to have been 20 at the time.

The long nightmare for the trio ended when Ms Berry reached through a crack in the front door and called for help.

Neighbour Charles Ramsey heard her screaming and tried to get her out through the door, but could not pull it open.

So he kicked the bottom open and she crawled through carrying a little girl.

Another neighbour Anna Tejeda said Ms Berry was nervous and crying, and dressed in pyjamas and old sandals.

Ms Tejeda said she gave her telephone to Ms Berry, who then called police.

In a recording of the 911 call, she told the emergency dispatcher: "I'm Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped. I've been missing for 10 years. I'm free. I'm here now."

She said she had been taken by someone - and begged officers to arrive at the home on Cleveland's west side "before he gets back".

When police arrived, they found the two other women who were allegedly being held captive. They were also rescued.

Mr Ramsey explained how he rescued Ms Berry, saying: "I hear this girl screaming and she's going nuts.

"So I come outside and I know there's nobody supposed to be screaming next door to my house because there's no girl that lives in that house.

"When I came to the front door and looked at her she said 'My name is Amanda Berry - please get me out of this house'.

"She told the police, 'I ain't just only one, there's some more girls up in that house. So they go on up there ... and when they came out it was just astonishing."

Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of Ms DeJesus, told The Plain Dealer newspaper: "I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever.

"This is amazing. This is a celebration. I'm so happy. I just want to see her walk out of those doors so I can hug her."

The rescue is the latest in a series of high-profile cases involving females being held captive for several years.

Jaycee Dugard was found on August 26, 2009, 18 years after she was kidnapped aged 11 in California.

She had been seized by Phillip Garrido - and his wife Nancy - while on her way to school in South Lake Tahoe in June 1991, and was kept in a hidden backyard and had two children with him. The Garridos were jailed for life.

Reacting to the escape of the Cleveland trio, she said in in a statement: "These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back in the world. This isn't who they are. It is only what happened to them.

"The human spirit is resilient. More than ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope."