Hungarian Couple ‘Imprisoned French Pensioner in Shed’

Lake Balaton in Siofok, Hungary. (Image by János Bencs from Pixabay via Courthouse News)

BUDAPEST (AFP) — A Hungarian couple face jail for locking up an elderly Frenchwoman in a garden shed near Siofok in western Hungary for a year and a half, prosecutors said Thursday.

“A 42-year-old man and his 41-year-old wife have been charged with violating personal liberty,” said a statement by the Siofok District Prosecutor’s Office, which is seeking a jail term of four years and six months for both the accused.

The victim, a 71-year-old French national, “had lived in Siofok since the 1990s,” said Gabor Csapo, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. 

The trial is likely to begin within six months, he told AFP.

The victim knew the defendants who had gained her trust over time before “taking advantage” of her, said the prosecutor’s statement.

The couple moved into her house and tried to persuade her to give the property to their child, before claiming that it needed renovation and that she would have to move out. 

In early 2018, the couple took the woman to an enclosed garden outside Siofok, a tourist resort town by the Lake Balaton. 

There she was locked in a shed previously used as a pigsty and for storing tools.

Measuring 60 square feet and fitted with metal grilles on the outside, the uninsulated building was equipped with a bed, table, bedside lamp and radio, but lacked proper heating or sanitation facilities. 

The defendants took food, water and alcohol once a day to the victim, who was occasionally allowed to walk under supervision. 

“Considering her situation to be hopeless, she did not try to escape, but when the defendants were away, repeatedly tried to call for help… but in vain,” said the prosecutors.

In March 2018, the victim’s absence was noticed by her neighbors in Siofok, but when the accused heard about a police search they moved the woman back to her house in Siofok, claiming she had returned home. 

Once the police called off the search, the defendants returned the victim to the locked shed. 

In September 2019, police discovered the shed after a tip-off and released the victim.

© Agence France-Presse

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