Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital following her escape from the house of Ariel Castro. Photo: AP
The Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro called the mother of one of his victims to tell her that her daughter was alive but was now his "wife", according to police interrogation tapes.
He used the mobile phone belonging to the abducted teenager, Amanda Berry, to make the call so that it could not be traced to him.
He also told officers that Miss Berry was finally able to escape his house after a decade of captivity only because he responded to the pleading of the six-year-old daughter whom he fathered with her and left her bedroom door unlocked.
Ariel Castro appears in court in August. Photo: AP
An investigation is under way after Castro hanged himself with a bed sheet in an Ohio prison cell this week, barely a month after he was sentenced to life plus a thousand years for abducting, imprisoning and raping his three female victims.
The 53-year-old former school bus driver made a series of chilling admissions to police hours after his arrest in May, declaring his surprise that he was not caught years earlier.
He gave an account of the call that he made to Louwana Miller after he kidnapped Amanda on the evening before her 17th birthday in April 2003.
"I think I said ... that I have her daughter and that she's OK and that she's my wife now - something like that, you know, probably not the exact words," Castro said in the police tapes, which have been obtained by NBC's Today programme.
When asked for the mother's response, he said: "I hung up, so we didn't have a conversation."
The date that he made the phone call to Mrs Miller has not been disclosed. She searched relentlessly for her missing child but died three years after the kidnapping aged 44. The cause of death was heart failure, but relations said she died of a broken heart.
Castro explained to police how Miss Berry finally escaped and called for help, even though he had long held the three women behind locked doors, often tied to beds by chains and ropes.
It was the six-year-old daughter to whom Miss Berry gave birth in the basement of the house - and on whom Castro claimed to have doted - who begged him to stop locking all the doors.
The result was that Miss Berry escaped from the bedroom while he was out of the house. "I know I let my guard down," he told police.
He admitted his own amazement that he had been able to get away with his crimes for so long, describing several close calls.
There were surveillance cameras at the school of Gina DeJesus, his daughter's closest friend, that should have caught him on video there 15 minutes before he lured the girl, then aged 14, into his car in 2004, he said.
He also thought his then girlfriend might have realised something was amiss after he abducted his first victim, Michelle Knight, aged 20, in August 2002.
The woman heard a television in the upstairs bedroom where he was holding Miss Knight.
"She says, 'What is that? You have a TV on up there?' And my heart started beating, and I was like, 'OK, she's probably catching on to something'," he said.
"Was it a close call?" an investigator asked. "Yeah," Castro replied.
During his interrogation, he alternated between calmly recounting his crimes and sitting with his heads in his hands, sometimes wiping away tears with a handkerchief.
He described how he abducted the three women, even blaming them for getting into his car.
The tapes included graphic details of how Castro beat and sexually abused the women, but NBC said it had not released excerpts from those sections out of respect to his victims.
One exchange raises fresh questions about the investigation opened this week into how Castro was able to kill himself while in custody.
Asked by an officer if he felt suicidal, he said: "I just want to crash through the window."
Police found an apparent suicide note in the house that he wrote in 2004. "I want to put an end to my life and let the devil deal with me," he had written.
Castro's lawyers have asked why their client was taken off suicide watch in June. Prison officials are investigating how he was able to hang himself with his bed sheets when he was supposed to be checked by guards every half hour. His body was claimed by relations this week and they are expected to have his remains cremated without ceremony or burial.
Lawyers for his three victims said they would be making no comment about the death of their tormentor.
Gina's aunt, Janice Smith, said the families had mixed emotions.
"It means we can move on with our lives now," she told CNN. "It means hopefully we won't have to hear about Mr Castro no more."
The Telegraph, UK