French police said they had arrested a 55-year old German after his wife was discovered naked in a poor state following what she said was 12 years in captivity at the couple's home.
But her husband denied this and added that his wife was suffering from cancer and that he was caring for her.
A police source said on Monday initially the woman, also German, was found with her head shaved in a bedroom of the apartment, had multiple injuries and was undernourished. She had probably been tortured, the source said.
The state of her health was "not good", local prosecutor Olivier Glady told AFP after her examination by the local forensic medicine service.
But he later told a news conference that initial examinations had not found fractures or bruises, contrary to media reports.
Blood tests showed that she was not significantly dehydrated, he said, adding that there were "inconsistencies" in her accounts to investigators.
"The cursor is probably moving away from a scenario of horror, towards unsatisfactory conditions of the care of a sick person," Glady said.
He said her bald head and her skinny frame could be due to cancer and her semi-nude state could be explained by the fact that the police went to their flat in the morning to detain her husband.
"The current state of investigation appears us to move away from the spectre of a Bluebeard of the Moselle region," the prosecutor added, a reference to "Bluebeard", a French folk tale about a wealthy man who murders his wives.
Police said the bedroom and other rooms in the apartment were closed off with metal wire at the flat in Forbach in eastern France, near the German border.
A police source said the woman, who is 53, got access to a phone and called police in Wiesbaden, western Germany, who in turn alerted their French colleagues.
'Maybe 10 years ago'
Over the years, the man had told everyone in the building that his wife had cancer, said Alicia, a neighbour.
"I never saw the lady, I don't think she ever left the house," she said.
"Sometimes I heard screams," Alicia said, but added that she thought they were caused by the illness.
Erika, another witness who lives in an adjacent street, said she last saw the woman "maybe 10 years ago", and thought that "maybe she had died, or moved out".
Police are investigating the man for kidnapping, aggravated rape, and acts of torture and barbarism, French broadcaster BFMTV said.
Broadcaster RMC said police found a diary-type notebook in which it was believed the man kept a record of his actions and of the times he gave his wife food but the prosecutor did not confirm this.
Police had already been called to the couple's home in 2019, but said they did not detect any signs of trouble.