Three brothers arrested in US kidnap case

Three brothers in their 50s have been arrested in connection with the discovery of three kidnapped women in the US city of Cleveland, after they had been missing for about a decade, police say.

Ariel Castro, 52, and two brothers of his have been taken into custody, Cleveland police chief Michael McGrath told a press conference after the dramatic escape of the three women from their captors on Monday evening.

Police identified the other brothers as 54-year-old Pedro Castro and 50-year-old Oneil Castro.

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.

The three women, who had vanished separately up to 11 years ago, were rescued on Monday, police said. The announcement rocked the city and prompted celebrations.

A 6-year-old was found in the home, and Cleveland police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said Tuesday that the girl is believed to be Berry's daughter. He declined to say who the father was.

The women seemed to be ''in good health'' after their surprise discovery in a residential area near the city centre, police said.

A 911 recording obtained by local media captured the dramatic moment when a breathless Ms Berry told authorities who she was: ''Help me, I'm Amanda Berry … I need police … I've been kidnapped. I've been missing for 10 years; I'm here, I'm free now.''

She added of her captor: ''I need them [the police] now, before he gets back … I'm Amanda Berry. I've been in the news for the past 10 years.''

Ms Berry was 16 when she disappeared on April 21, 2003, after calling her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. Ms DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared a year later. Ms Knight vanished on August 23, 2002, when she was 21, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

Charles Ramsey told WKYC-TV he had just got home from McDonald's when he heard screaming next door, so he and another neighbour ran to help.

''This girl's kicking the door and screaming, and so I go over there with my Big Mac, and I say, 'Well, can I help you, what's going on?' and she says, 'I've been kidnapped, and I've been in this house a long time. I want to leave right now!'''

The door wouldn't open, so the men began kicking it at the bottom so she could get out, Mr Ramsey said. The woman identified herself as Amanda Berry.

''I thought she was the only one'' in the house, Mr Ramsey said. ''She grabbed some little girl … and said, 'This is his daughter''' - an apparent reference to a man living in the house.

Mr Ramsey said he only realised it was the girl who had been missing for years after he helped her call the police. ''When she told me, it didn't register. Until I got to call 911 and then I thought, 'I've got to call for Amanda Berry? I thought she was dead.'''

When officers arrived, an even more dramatic story unfolded. ''That girl, Amanda, told the police, 'I ain't the only one in there,''' Mr Ramsey said. Police went inside and discovered the two other women. ''When they came out, it was astonishing,'' Mr Ramsey said.

Neighbours told reporters they had no idea any women lived in the house and had never seen them outside. The owner blacked out his windows and entered his home through the back door, Jannette Gomez, 50, told the Plain Dealer.

''I ate barbecue with this dude,'' Mr Ramsey said.

The women were taken to a hospital, where a doctor said they were in fair condition.

''This isn't the ending we usually hear to these stories, so we're very happy,'' said Dr Gerald Maloney of the MetroHealth Medical Centre in Cleveland.

On Monday night, cheering crowds gathered on the street near the house where police found the women. They were found just a few kilometres from where they had gone missing.

As news of the rescue emerged, loved ones said they had not given up hope of seeing Ms Berry and Ms DeJesus again. Among them was Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of Ms DeJesus.

''I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever,'' Ms Rogers told the Plain Dealer. ''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.''

Los Angeles Times, agencies

This story Three brothers arrested in US kidnap case first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.