Cleveland Abduction: is film on Netflix UK, where to watch, who is Ariel Castro - is it based on a true story?

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The film, first released in 2015, has introduced a new audience to the story of kidnapper Ariel Castro

Netflix viewers have called 2015 film Cleveland Abduction the “most disturbing” thing they’ve seen, with the true crime movie finding a new audience after being released seven years ago.

This is everything you need to know.

What is Cleveland Abduction - is it a true story?

Cleveland Abduction is a 2015 film directed by Alex Kalymnios which is based on the Ariel Castro kidnappings which occurred between 2002 and 2004 in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Over the course of two years, Castro abducted three women - Michelle Knight, aged 21, Amanda Berry, aged 16, and Gina DeJesus, aged 14 - and kept them captive for 11 years.

He offered his victims a ride in his car where he transported them to his home at 2207 Seymour Avenue. After luring them inside, Castro took them to his basement and restrained them.

Ariel Castro listening as Judge Michael Russo reads his sentence (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)Ariel Castro listening as Judge Michael Russo reads his sentence (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
Ariel Castro listening as Judge Michael Russo reads his sentence (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Castro’s sentencing memorandum, filed by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, said that diaries kept by the women “spoke of forced sexual conducted, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war, of missing the lives they once enjoyed, of emotional abuse, of his threats to kill, of being treated like an animal, or continuous abuse, and of desiring freedom”.

The memorandum added that the women “only had access to plastic toilets in the bedrooms” which were “emptied infrequently”.

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It said that Castro used “a program of prolonged physical, sexual, and psychological violence” to keep the women “in a state of powerlessness”.

A screenshot from a video released by the three victims of Ariel Castro, (L-R) Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, displayed during Castro’s sentencing (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)A screenshot from a video released by the three victims of Ariel Castro, (L-R) Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, displayed during Castro’s sentencing (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
A screenshot from a video released by the three victims of Ariel Castro, (L-R) Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, displayed during Castro’s sentencing (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images) | Getty Images

On 25 December 2006, Berry gave birth to a baby girl who was conceived through rape. DNA testing has confirmed that Castro is the father.

“[Castro] deprived Amanda Berry of any medical assistance during the pregnancy and birth,” the memorandum said. “When the baby was born, she was not breathing.

“Michelle Knight breathed into the baby’s mouth in an effort to save her. [Castro] threatened to kill Michelle Knight if she failed to save her life. Miraculously, the baby survived.”

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The exterior of the house where the three victims were kept captive (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)The exterior of the house where the three victims were kept captive (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
The exterior of the house where the three victims were kept captive (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Knight also fell pregnant as a result of Castro’s sexual abuse, however he “punched and kicked her stomach, jumped on her stomach, and starved her for days to terminate the pregnancy”.

The document also listed Castro’s criminal history which, while not extensive, “indicated a strong pattern of violence and abuse”. This included Castro being arrested on a number of occasions for physically abusing his wife at the time, Grimilda Figueroa.

On 20 November 1994, Castro was also involved in “an assault incident where he threatened to hit the victim, Ernesto Santiage, with a shovel and “take care of him””.

A handout from Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, of Ariel Castro, 52 (Photo: Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images)A handout from Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, of Ariel Castro, 52 (Photo: Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images)
A handout from Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, of Ariel Castro, 52 (Photo: Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images) | Getty Images

In 1996, Castro was involved in two altercations which resulted in police reports for “menacing”.

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Abduction and endangering children complaints were also raised against Castro in 2004 when, during his time as a bus driver for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, he left a child on the bus whilst he went to a Wendy’s to get food.

How did the women escape?

On 6 May 2013, Berry was able to make contact with one of Castro’s neighbours, an act which led to her and her six year old daughter’s escape and the rescue of DeJesus and Knight.

According to the police, when Castro left the house that day, he had failed to lock the main inside door, however the exterior storm door was locked. Berry had been afraid to break open the door because, a police report said, she was scared that Castro was “testing her”.

However, she was able to get the attention of Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero kicked a hole through the bottom of the storm door which allowed Berry and her daughter to crawl through.

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A model of the home where Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus were held captive by Ariel Castro (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)A model of the home where Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus were held captive by Ariel Castro (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
A model of the home where Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus were held captive by Ariel Castro (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images) | Getty Images

After the help from Ramsey and Cordero, Berry called 911 and said: “Help me, I am Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Ramsay told news outlets at the time: “I heard screaming… and I see this girl going nuts trying to get outside.

“I go on the porch and she said, “Help me get out, I’ve been here a long time”. I figured it was a domestic violence dispute. So I open the door.

“She comes out with a little girl and says, “Call 911, my name is Amanda Berry”. When she told me, it didn’t register.”

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Balloons and presents sit outside the home of kidnap victim Amanda Berry on May 9, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)Balloons and presents sit outside the home of kidnap victim Amanda Berry on May 9, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Balloons and presents sit outside the home of kidnap victim Amanda Berry on May 9, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Officers were quickly dispatched to Castro’s home, leading to the recovery of Knight and DeJesus. The three women plus the young girl were all taken to MetroHealth Medical Centre.

Castro was soon arrested in a McDondald’s car park.

How long was Ariel Castro sentenced to?

Following his arrest on 6 May 2013, Castro made his first court appearance at the Cleveland Municipal Court on 9 May.

Over the course of his trial, a grand jury issued Castro with 977 counts in total - 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 of rape, seven of gross sexual imposition, six of felonious assault, three of child endangerment, two of aggravated murder and one of possession of criminal tools.

Ariel Castro at Cleveland Municipal Court with County Public defender Kathleen DeMetz (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)Ariel Castro at Cleveland Municipal Court with County Public defender Kathleen DeMetz (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Ariel Castro at Cleveland Municipal Court with County Public defender Kathleen DeMetz (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

He ultimately pleaded guilty on 26 July 2013 to 937 of the 977 charges against him as part of a plea bargain which saw him sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison, plus 1,000 years, without the possibility of parole.

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Under the deal, Castro also forfeited his right to appeal his sentence, his assets and was fined $100,000.

During his sentencing, Knight told Castro: “You took 11 years of my life away. I spent 11 years in hell; now your hell is just beginning.

“I will overcome all that has happened, but you will face hell for eternity. I will live on, you will die a little every day as you think of the 11 years of atrocities that you inflicted on us… I can forgive you, but I will ever forget.”

Michelle Knight addressed the court during the trial of Ariel Castro on August 1, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)Michelle Knight addressed the court during the trial of Ariel Castro on August 1, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
Michelle Knight addressed the court during the trial of Ariel Castro on August 1, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images) | Getty Images

One month into his life sentence, Castro was found dead in his detention cell at the Correctional Reception Centre on 3 September 2013. While prison staff performed CPR on him, he was pronounced dead at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre.

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His death was ruled as a suicide by authorities, with a report stating: “In conclusion, based upon the fact that this inmate was going to remain in prison for the rest of his natural life under the probability of continued percieved harassment and threats to his safety, his death was not predictable on September 3, 2013, but his suicide was not surprising and perhaps inevitable.”

Castro was 53 when he died.

Who is in the film?

Raymond Cruz stars as kidnapper Ariel Castro. You’ll likely recognise Cruz from roles like Mr Bicks in Nova Vita, Julio Sanchez in both Major Crimes and The Closer, Tuca Salamanca in Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, and Paco in My Name Is Earl.

Taryn Manning portrays Michelle Knight, the woman whose memoir acted as the basis for Cleveland Abduction. Many will know Manning as Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett from the Netflix prison series Orange is the New Black. She has also starred in Hawaii Five-O, Sons of Anarchy, Drive, 8 Mile and Get Real.

Taryn Manning stars as Michelle Knight in Cleveland Abduction (Photo: IMDb)Taryn Manning stars as Michelle Knight in Cleveland Abduction (Photo: IMDb)
Taryn Manning stars as Michelle Knight in Cleveland Abduction (Photo: IMDb) | IMDb

Appearing as Manning’s fellow kidnapees is Katie Sarife (Youth & Consequences, Girl Meets World) as Gina DeJesus and Samantha Droke (Poor Paul, Eastwick) as Amanda Berry.

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The rest of the cast includes Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, The L Word), Joe Morton (Our Kind of People, The Politician), Jane Mowder (Evil Takes Root, Constraint), Grace Ransom (Chicago Justice, Chicago Med) and Tammy Tsai (Dog Bytes, The Race).

Where can I watch it?

While Cleveland Abduction has become the latest Netflix film that everyone is talking about, it’s not actually available on Netflix UK.

UK users talking about the film on social media are likely using a VPN to watch the 2015 film on Netflix.

There are other options though for UK viewers wanting to watch the film - it’s available to rent or buy from the iTunes store, Google Play, Sky Store and on Amazon Prime Video.

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