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Austrian man has confessed to imprisoning his daughter

AMSTETTEN, Austria (Reuters) - A 73-year-old Austrian man has confessed to imprisoning his daughter in a
windowless cellar for 24 years and fathering her seven children, police said on Monday.

A 42-year-old woman had told police on Sunday that her father, Josef Fritzl, lured her into the basement of
the block where they lived in the town of Amstetten in 1984 and drugged and handcuffed her before
imprisoning her.

"(Fritzl) has now said that he locked up his daughter for 24 years and that he alone fathered her seven
children and that he locked them up in the cellar," Franz Polzer, head of the criminal investigations unit in the
province of Lower Austria told Reuters by telephone.

Three of Elisabeth Fritzl's children had been locked up since birth in the basement of the plain, grey building
along with their mother and had never seen sunlight or received any education, police said.

Austrian investigators were combing through the network of windowless, underground cells where Elisabeth
and the children had been holed up.

Some parts of the dungeon were no more than 1.70 meters (5 ft 6 in) high and officials in Amstetten said the
basement labyrinth even contained a padded cell.

Fritzl had hidden the entrance to the cell behind shelves and only he knew the secret code for the reinforced
concrete door, said officials.

The case unfolded when a 19-year-old girl -- the oldest of the three -- became seriously ill and was
hospitalized, prompting doctors to appeal for the girl's mother to come forward to provide more details about
her medical history.

Fritzl then brought Elisabeth and her remaining two children out of the basement, telling his wife -- who
thought their "missing" daughter had chosen to return home, police said.

Elisabeth agreed to make a "comprehensive statement" detailing her ordeal to the police after receiving
assurances she would have no further contact with her father, who she said abused her from the age of 11.

Newspaper headlines called the case the "crime of a monster" and the "worst crime of all time". Media
asked how authorities and residents of Amstetten, 130 km (80 miles) west of Vienna, could have failed to
notice what was happening in the "horror house".


The case was especially shocking because it was reminiscent of that of Austrian Natascha Kampusch who
spent eight years locked up in a windowless cell before escaping in August 2006.

"The community of Amstetten should drown in shame ... The neighbors are turning a blind eye," the
Oesterreich newspaper wrote in an editorial.

The daily Der Standard wrote: "The whole country must ask itself what is really, fundamentally going wrong."

Police have said they believe Josef's wife Rosemarie had been unaware of what happened to her daughter
when she disappeared in 1984 and it was assumed Elisabeth had left voluntarily when her parents received
a letter from her saying they should not search for her.

But all the while Elisabeth was being held in what Polzer described as a sophisticated network of chambers
with facilities for sleeping, cooking and washing.

Elisabeth gave birth to seven children, one of whom died shortly after being born, police said.

Three of the children -- two girls and one boy -- were brought up by Josef and his wife after they were left on
the doorstep where the couple lived. The first child was accompanied by a note from Elisabeth saying she
was unable to care for the baby herself.
Three others -- two boys and a girl --, including the two eldest aged 18 and 19, and the youngest, aged 5,
had been locked up in the basement with their mother since birth. (less)

Incest Dad Left Children to Go on Vacation

Austria Reels as More Gruesome Details Emerge in Abuse Case
PASSAU, Germany, April 30, 2008

While crime scene investigators are continuing their inquiries, more details about the

man who held his daughter and children captive in Austria are coming to light.

Right: Elisabeth Fritzl in a 1981 school photo taken when she was 15 at the "Polytechnische Lehrgang...

More Photos

Most upsetting to many Austrians may be a home video obtained by German TV station n-tv.

It shows the man who confessed to imprisoning, raping and impregnating his daughter,

Elisabeth, for 24 years on a "boys holiday" in Thailand in 1998, as she and her children

suffered in a secret dungeon in the family home thousands of miles away.

Images show a smiling Josef Fritzl posing for the camera; Fritzl at the bazaar in Pataya, buying

a dress for "his lover," as a friend remembers him saying at the time; Fritzl and his friend

taking an elephant ride; Fritzl at a dinner buffet helping himself to food; Fritzl relaxing at the
beach having a massage -- seemingly without a care in the world. They are all pictures of a

happy man.

The same TV station also interviewed an Austrian journalist who has been working on the

Fritzls' ''missing daughter story'' a couple of years ago, long before this horrible crime was


Andrea Kramer, the journalist, told n-tv that Fritzl appeared as a broken, old man, grieving

because his daughter had run away from home when she was 18 to join a religious cult.

"No way could I ever imagine him the evil he turned out to be," Kramer told n-tv. "It

seems impossible."

Asked how it was possible for Fritzl to keep his true face under wraps for so long, Franz Polzer,

head of Lower Austrian Bureau of Criminal Affairs, told Austrian TV ORF in an interview

Tuesday night, "He had no scruples to use every possible means to deceive his family, his wife,

his relatives and everybody around him to cover up his crime. He was a very cunning man. He

created a perfectly constructed framework of lies."

Polzer also explained that police in Austria were still looking for witnesses who could help shed

some light into the dark chapter. He appealed publicly to "everybody who can help police to

come forward."

Meanwhile, local TV stations are reporting that a former tenant, who had lived above the cellar

where Elisabeth and her children were imprisoned, said he heard strange noises in the night

and saw Fritzl ferrying wheelbarrows of food under the cover of darkness.
An Austrian police handout picture released April 28, 2008, shows Josef Fritzl, who is suspected of keeping his

daughter prisoner and abusing her for 24 years in the basement of a house in the small Austrian village of



Alfred Dubanovsky, 42, who lived in the building for 12 years, said Fritzl spent his days in the

cellar but banned anyone from going near it.

"It never occurred to me anything about his behavior was unusual," he told reporters. "I wish

to God that I could turn back the clock. The signs were all there, but it was impossible for me

to recognize them. Who would ever believe something so terrible was going on right under my

feet? How was it possible to happen in our midst?"

Those are questions many people of Amstetten, a small town with 22,000 inhabitants, are still

struggling to come to terms with.

On Tuesday night, about 400 people took part in a candlelight vigil in support of the family in

the town square.

"The outside world seems to think Amstetten is a terrible town and that people in the

community do not care for one another. We want to show this is not true," organizer Elisabeth

Anderson told reporters.

"Who is Josef Fritzl?" state broadcaster ORF asked today in an online article. "All of Austria is

asking this question, if not the entire world."

Fritzl, dubbed "monster" by Austrian media, is being held at a prison in St. Poelten,

near Amstetten. He has seen lawyer Rudolf Mayer, who accepted to defend him in the trial.

Mayer said his client is under psychiatric care and said during an interview with The Associated

Press, "Fritzl is really hit by this. He is very serious, but he is emotionally broken."

Those observations, however, have been contradicted by a police source quoted by Austrian

daily Der Standard who said, "He is showing no sign of regret whatsoever. He comes across as

very arrogant, as if he thinks he has done nothing wrong."

Prosecutor Gerhard Sedlacek reportedly added that the man appeared "completely calm,

completely without emotion" when he was formally placed in pretrial detention Tuesday.

The prosecutor also agreed with the police's Polzer who said today that it could take at least

six months for authorities to conclude the investigation into what he calls "a unique case that

has no precedent in Austrian history."

During a news conference today, clinic director Berthold Kepplinger of Landesklinkum

Amstetten-Mostviertel told reporters that Elisabeth and her children, all in the psychiatric care

of a team of specialists, are "doing well under the circumstances."

He said he did not expect their condition to change dramatically in the next couple of days.

Kepplinger also told the media that Elisabeth and her kids were living with Elisabeth's mother,

Rosemarie, in a living area separate from other clinic patients so that the reunited family

would be allowed privacy and protection from outsiders.

It was Kepplinger who told reporters Tuesday that Elisabeth and the kids, who had been

confined with her in the cellar, had a reunion with Elisabeth's mother and some of her children

who had been allowed to live above ground with their grandparents.

Though Fritzl reportedly told his wife and authorities that his daughter had run away, during

the years he said she had sent three of her children because she couldn't care for them.

The doctor added, "The family members are enjoying talking to each other, and

yesterday they even had a small birthday party with a proper birthday cake for Elisabeth's 12-

year-old son, one of the children who grew up with his grandparents."
Kepplinger also said an 18-year-old young man, who grew up in confinement and had never

seen the sun, could read and write "in a reduced form" and the children "were communicating

in their own language."

Asked about the mother's health and mental condition, he declined to provide details but said,

"It was definitely dreadful for her and for her children."

Kerstin, 19, one of the six surviving children and whose hospitalization triggered the family's

discovery, was said to still be struggling for her life.

"She remains in a medically induced coma at the hospital in St. Poelten. She's still in need of

the life-support system and her condition is still critical but stable," said Albert Reiter, the

doctor in charge of her medical treatment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Minat Terkait