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Elisabeth Fritzl Kicks Mom Out

Posted by shadmia on August 1, 2008

Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, has had a terrible life. Raped by her father, Josef Fritzl, 73, since age 11 and incarcerated by him for 24 years. She bore her father 7 children, six of whom are still alive, while being held captive in a dungeon cellar. For a detailed look at the abuse Elisabeth suffered at the hands of her father click here for The Josef Fritzl story.

It now appears that a rift has opened up between her mother, Rosemarie Fritzl, 69, and herself. According to reports, Elisabeth has asked her mother to leave their home. She, Elisabeth, appears to have mixed feelings about her mother:

She is said to find it hard to understand why her mother stayed with her father even though he was a convicted rapist who spent time in jail in the 1960’s.

She also has a hard time understanding why her mother did not stand up to her father, who began raping her when she was only 11 years old. She finds it hard to believe that her mother knew nothing at all about the abuse. Also, when Josef told his wife that Elisabeth had run away from home, she wonders why her mother did not do more to try and find her, especially when Josef produced three of her children who were supposedly left on her doorstep.

Elisabeth is also upset that the three children who grew up with her mother are still calling Rosemarie “Mom” and not “Grandmother”. The children: Lisa, 16, Monika, 14, and Alexander, 12, were all raised by Josef and Rosemarie in their home, while the other children: Kerstin, 19, Stefan, 18, and Felix, 5, were forced to live in the cellar with Elisabeth.

In the meantime, Rosemarie Fritzl was seen collecting some personal items from her old house. Christoph Herbst, the lawyer for the Fritzl family, said: “No-one from that family will ever want to live in that house again.” It is believed that she has moved in with one of her relatives, possibly one of her own sons. Rosemarie is said to be “shattered” that she had to leave her family. Doctors fear she could be the most severely disturbed member of the family. Christoph Herbst, the family’s lawyer, said after Elisabeth was freed in April:

“Rosemarie has lost the centre of her world. Her life was never that good but she always had the children and she had to be strong and be there for them no matter how bad things were at home.

“Now she is no longer the key figure in the children’s lives because their mother has returned and she also has to deal with the awful revelations of what had happened to her daughter Elisabeth over all these years.”

After being asked to leave her family, Rosemarie announced that she would be divorcing her husband Josef. She had married him at age 17 and had spent the next 52 years of her life as his wife. She is reportedly doing all she can to distance herself from her husband. She will take back her maiden name after the divorce. Not having worked since her early youth, Mrs Fritzl is only entitled to meager benefits payments.

In other developments Elisabeth Fritzl has finished giving testimony against her father. She spent 4 days talking to prosecutors. While details of her testimony have not been made public, it is believed that she accused her father of rape and psychological torment, as well as for the death of her child, who is thought to have died three days after birth because of conditions in the cellar.

However there seems to be some reluctance on the part of the adult children to give testimony against their father. Prosecutors want to use the testimonies of Kerstin,19, and Stefan,18, to reinforce the charges against their father.The prosecution spokesman, Gerhard Sedlacek, said:

“We still have not fixed a date for the questioning of the two adult children but it has now emerged that they could make use of their right not to speak to the authorities and refuse to give evidence against their father.

“The matter will be discussed between their lawyer and the judge in charge, but it has been suggested that they decline to give any statement.”

Josef Fritzl, a retired engineer, has made a partial confession and is facing charges of manslaughter for the death in 1996 of Michael, who was the twin brother of 12-year-old Alexander, as well as rape, coercion, deprivation of freedom and incest. However, prosecutors said that the first two charges would be very difficult to prove because of the lack of scientific evidence and because they were relying to a large extent on the testimonies of the children to strengthen their case.

“There is no direct forensic evidence due to the time elapsed and there is no body, since he allegedly burnt the baby in an oven. The charges could therefore only be based on the testimony of his daughter. In addition, in order to stand up the charges of manslaughter, one would need to attain evidence that there was premeditation, as well as evidence that the child would have survived had it received medical attention.”

The allegations of rape, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, would also be difficult to prove because of lack of corroborating evidence, and the charges would only be based on the testimony of Elisabeth.

If his adult children refuse to give evidence, Mr Fritzl could be facing a ten-year prison term as Austrian law does not allow for multiple convictions. This means that even if he is found guilty of several crimes, he will only serve one punishment, for the offense that carries the longest prison sentence, which in this case is likely to be deprivation of freedom.

A jury of eight will decide whether Mr Fritzl is guilty. If he is convicted they will confer with a panel of three judges to determine his sentence. The trial is set to start sometime in the fall.

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Posted in Incest, news, Our World, Rape, Scandals, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, world | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Elisabeth Fritzl Begins Testimony

Posted by shadmia on July 14, 2008

Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, who was imprisoned for 24 years by her father, Josef Fritzl, and bore him 7 children; has been given medical clearance to begin testifying about her ordeal. She has already begun to answer questions and will continue to do so in the coming week. Elisabeth has said that she never wants to see her father ever again…..not even at trial. So in order to accommodate her wishes, all of her testimony is being videotaped so that she will not be forced to confront him in court.

The trial of Josef Fritzl is scheduled to begin later this year in front of one of Austria’s most senior female judges, Andrea Humer, 48, who is considered to be an expert in sex crimes. However, under Austrian law, Elisabeth is being questioned by the investigative judge Christoph Bauer, and not the trial judge Andrea Humer. Neither the contents of the questioning nor the upcoming trial will be open to the public.

The actual questioning of Elisabeth is taking place in two separate rooms of the same building via a video link up. In one room will be Elisabeth and her lawyer Eva Plaz, along with judge Christoph Bauer. In the other room will be state prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser and Josef Fritzl’s lawyer Rudolf Mayer. Defense lawyer Rudolf Mayer is allowed to ask questions, but his client, Josef Fritzl, who is also entitled to attend, has waived his right to be there. Rudolf Mayer, said: “My client will definitely not attend the questioning.” Elisabeth’s two oldest children, who spent their entire lives in the cellar, Kerstin, 19, and Stefan,18, will also be questioned by the court as soon as doctors give their approval. Josef Fritzl’s wife Rosemarie, 68, is also expected to be questioned.

In what may be a surprising development, it turns out that Austrian law, does not allow for cumulative convictions. This means that even if Josef Fritzl is convicted of multiple crimes he will only effectively serve one punishment, for the offense that carries the longest prison sentence.

Fritzl is facing potential charges of manslaughter for the newborn that died, as well as rape, coercion, deprivation of freedom and incest. But prosecutors told The Times that since the baby died in 1997, the manslaughter charges would be “extremely difficult” to prove. Even the rape charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, could be impossible to probe because of a lack of forensic evidence.

What this means is that the only charge that is certain to be proved in court is deprivation of freedom, a crime that can only be punished with ten years in prison under Austrian law. Josef Fritzl could be a free man after only 10 years in prison.

However, here’s the irony in the situation….. Josef Fritzl, who incarcerated his own daughter in a windowless dungeon for 24 years, has admitted that he can’t stand being locked up after only two months in prison. In spite of his fear of being beaten up or killed by other inmates, who routinely target child sex offenders, Josef has demanded his right to 30 minutes exercise outside every day. At night fellow inmates bang on the walls and shout: “Come on out Satan, we want to play.”

Fritzl, who remains held in pretrial detention in St. Poelten, about 50 miles west of Vienna, now has half-hour walks, protected from other inmates by a close guard of prison officers. Fritzl even told prison guards he enjoyed having the sun on his face during his walks.

“Mr Fritzl is accommodated in a cell for two and recently he has made use of his right to go outside for half an hour per day,” the Telegraph quoted prison spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Erich Huber-Guensthofer, as saying.

A source is quoted as saying: “He usually sits there watching television all day, especially news programs about him. He’s terrified that someone will attack him or try to kill him.”

In encouraging news about the Fritzl family; Lisa, 15, one of Elisabeth’s daughters, was sneaked out of the compound where the family has been staying to attend a summer camp. It is reported that the girl enjoyed four carefree days of outdoor fun under an assumed name with 4,000 other young campers. Armin Blutsch, who commands Amstetten’s fire brigade, and Hans-Heinz Lenze, a local official, said camp organizers took it upon themselves to include her after she said it was her “ardent desire.”

Other family members also have ventured, always in disguise, from the Amstetten-Mauer psychiatric clinic where they have been recovering to make day trips, including swimming outings. The clinic however remains under police guard to shut out the paparazzi who have laid siege to the building in an effort to photograph Elisabeth and her children.

“Fortunately, everything is going very well,” said Christoph Herbst, a lawyer representing the victims. He said they were spending some time each day trying to answer the hundreds of letters sent by well-wishers from around the world.

For the complete story of Elisabeth Fritzl and her ordeal at the hands of her father click the following link for a 5-part video presentation of The Josef Fritzl Story.

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Kerstin Fritzl Reunited with her Family

Posted by shadmia on June 20, 2008

Kirsten Fritzl, 19, of Amstetten, Austria who had been in a medically-induced coma for several weeks, has finally been reunited with her mother and siblings. Her father, Josef Fritzl, remains in jail having being accused of repeatedly raping his own daughter, who bore him 7 children (including Kristen) and holding them captive for 24 years in a cellar. See the Fritzl story here.

Kerstin’s doctor, Dr Albert Reiter said: It was an extraordinary moment when Kerstin, holding my arm, and I were able to walk through the door into a new home, crossing the threshold into a new life.The entire family is very happy that they are all together for the first time.“ See the press conference here. The Fritzl family now lives in an apartment on the grounds of the clinic where they are being taken care of.

Kerstin’s recovery has truly been remarkable. She was rushed to hospital in April after she fell desperately ill and was placed on life support systems including a respirator and dialysis machine. Her condition became worse and she was eventually put into a medically-induced coma to help her organs recover. In May her doctors began reducing her medication and she was brought out of the coma in June. Elisabeth, her mother, was at her bedside regularly encouraging her to fully come back into the world.

As she lay in bed, medics gradually started to help her to use her muscles again – including teaching her how to eat and speak again because of problems caused by the length of time she was connected to the respirator. Finally she was allowed out of intensive care and was taken by ambulance to start a new life with the rest of her freed family.

She is still suffering from symptoms associated with prolonged bedrest, including muscle waste and deterioration of her bones. But she has already managed to walk and received vaccinations to prepare her body for the outside world.

The Fritzl family is now all together: Kerstin; Elisabeth, her mother; Rosemarie, her grandmother; her brothers (Felix, 6, Alexander, 12 and Stefan, 18); and her sisters (Monika, 14 and Lisa, 16);

Family lawyer Christoph Herbst said Elisabeth, 42, is now determined to keep the family together.

“The family all want to live together. There is a real desire to be with one another. To be together is something very precious indeed. Everyone involved couldn’t anticipate that this could happen so quickly and so positively.”

But he said their freedom of movement was severely restricted by media besieging the clinic and appealed to journalists to respect family members’ privacy.

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Posted in news, Our World, Scandals, sex, world | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Wounds of Elisabeth Fritzl and Family

Posted by shadmia on June 2, 2008

Elisabeth Fritzl’s mental, physical and emotional wounds will require a network of case managers. So says Jeff Dolgan, senior psychologist at Denver Children’s Hospital, adding that he had never heard of a case this horrific.

“It’s beyond creepy,” he said. “This takes the cake. Trauma is like throwing a big rock into a pond. The waves go out and we are all sadly traumatized. She will need a system of care, not just one person but an adult psychiatrist who will coordinate the rehabilitation. Her world has been this basement. It’s like our waking up 500 years from now. This is all she’s known.”

Elisabeth Fritzl was incarcerated in a basement cellar for 24 years by her own father. She was repeatedly raped by him and bore him 7 children, one of which died shortly after birth and was incinerated in a furnace to get rid of the body. Elisabeth and her children were freed from their prison after a police investigation, prompted by the hospitalization of her eldest daughter Kirsten, 19, discovered their dungeon. Read the entire story here.

Physical Exam

After living for so long in the cramped, low-ceiling dungeon, called home for 24 years, Elisabeth and her kids have developed some serious physical problems. In her first medical exam after she was found, Austrian doctors said Elisabeth’s teeth were horrifically decayed. She and her three children have a myriad of medical problems, including vitamin D deficiency, anemia and bad posture.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a disease of malnutrition caused by lack of sun exposure that is rarely seen today. Her bones are weakened and deformed. Because of the cramped space, low ceilings and little opportunity to exercise, Elisabeth may also have problems with movement. She looks haggard, hunched over, lined and gray. The 42 year-old looks more like the sister of her 67-year-old mother than her daughter. Because of the scarce oxygen supply in the cramped quarters, Elisabeth and her kids had to spend long spells sitting or lying down. Kerstin, her 19-year-old daughter, is in an induced coma after collapsing. She is still in a critical condition and fighting for her life.

According to Dr. Stuart Goldman, a psychiatrist at Harvard University’s Children’s Hospital in Boston, “This case is so unique, we can only look for approximations.”

“If you don’t use muscles and stretch them out, your motion is limited,” said Goldman. Muscles can be retrained, but senses like vision and hearing could be permanently impaired. He continued “All our senses are trophic. You have to use nerves for nerves to develop. If you patch an eye, you eventually go blind, even if the eye is mechanically normal.”

Mental and Emotional Problems

Aside from the physical challenges facing the family, also of concern is the mental and emotional damage their incarceration may have caused. Although the Austrian doctors are worried about the three children, Elisabeth may have suffered the worst.

“She was older when it started happening, but at the same time, she had years and years of deprivation and limited stimulus,” said Jay Reeve, associate professor of psychology at Florida State University and executive vice president of the Apalache Center for Mental Health. “It’s exactly as if she was held in captivity in jail……She had some period of her life when, presumably, she was able to interact with others and be in school and have some social interchange,” said Reeve. “But the rape and sexual abuse that she experienced was a pretty stark betrayal of trust.”

Initially, her father Josef Fritzl, reportedly handcuffed Elisabeth to a metal pole and kept her in total darkness, returning only to bring her food or to rape her. She told police she was kept in a single room for the first nine years of her captivity where their children had to watch as her father repeatedly raped her. Often she had to decide whether to have sex or starve. She told officers how she quaked with fear every time she heard the door click as her dad came down for his vile sex sessions. He beat her if she struggled, so she soon stopped putting up a fight.

Police chief Franz Polzer said: “The man is evil beyond words. The misery he has inflicted on his family is unimaginable. It will take (Elisabeth and) the children years to recover.”

With the complexity of her trauma, Elisabeth most likely has shut down emotionally as a way to cope with the pain and may need myriad therapies and time “to handle her memories and make sense of how why this happened,” said Reeve.

Since being rescued, the family has been living in an isolated room in a psychiatric unit near their home. Doctors have placed a cargo container outside so that Josef Fritzl’s captives can retreat there if they feel too traumatized by the daylight and the open space.

“She needs reassurance that she has not lost everything,” said psychologist Dolgan.

On the video-sharing website Youtube there is a 5 part documentary on the discovery of the “House of Horrors” that Elisabeth and her children lived in. It is full of details about the experiences that she endured. Below is the first part of this documentary entitled The Josef Fritzl Story. Click here to see the entire series.

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Posted in news, Our World, Scandals, sex, world | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Elisabeth Fritzl and Family say “Thanks”

Posted by shadmia on May 15, 2008

Elisabeth Fritzl was held captive by her father Josef Fritzl for 24 years in a cellar. She bore him 7 children while in captivity. It was only when one of her children Kerstin, 19, became very sick and had to be taken to the hospital, that Elisabeth was found and freed by the police. Josef Fritzl is in jail facing a multitude of charges. Elisabeth and her children have been placed under psychiatric care. To read the entire rescue story click here.

With the backing and encouragement of her doctors, Elisabeth,42, and her kids (Stefan 18, Lisa 16, Monika 14, Alexander 12 and Felix 6) made a huge ‘Thank You’ poster to express their gratitude for the support and concern from the public. The 8ft x 5ft illustrated poster features a thank you note with the family members’ hands surrounding it, each with personal messages written inside. It is on display in a shop window in their hometown of Amstetten. The main message reads:

“We, the whole family, would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your sympathy for our fate.

“Your compassion is really helping us get through this difficult time and shows us that there are good people out there who care for us.

“We hope that the time will soon come when we can find our way back to a normal life.”

Each person wrote an emotional individual message containing their wishes for the future. A heart shape marks their sister Kerstin, 19, who is still seriously ill and has been placed in a medically induced coma.

Here is a closer look at some individual messages

Stefan 18, who until his release two weeks ago had never seen the sun, or stood fully upright, wrote: “I like the sun, the fresh air and nature.

Lisa, 16, who was not locked in the dungeon but who lived with Fritzl and his wife upstairs, wishes for “love, happiness, health” and “that everything turns out well again”.

Felix, 6, said he is dreaming of going by car again and by sledge, and he wants to play with other children and “run across a meadow”. He had his first ride in a car when he was collected by police and officers spoke of his delight at the trip.

The doctors taking care of the family say that they will need time to adjust to the real world. Berthold Kepplinger, who runs the clinic, said it was becoming more apparent how much time the family needed to heal. He said that the Fritzls would “need to remain here for several more months”.

He continued: “They all need to be very carefully protected and very slowly reintroduced to the real world, and to each other. In particular, Elizabeth and her two children from the cellar need to have further therapy to help them adjust to the light after years in semidarkness. “They also needed treatment to help them cope with all the extra space that they now have to move about in.

In an appeal to the public to respect the privacy of the family, Berthold Kepplinger also said:

“If the treatment is to work properly, then it is especially important that we get respect for their privacy, the need to this cannot be underestimated.”

He added that the family reunion had “gone extremely well. The children were playing and enjoying activities such as painting. They had also been given a computer. However, balancing the needs of each family member was complex, he said. For example, the two cellar children and their mother needed peace and quiet and were being kept inside, whereas the three children that had normal lives until now were suffering from the enforced isolation.

Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl abducted as a 10-year-old and held captive in a basement for more than eight years until she escaped in 2007, also offered her help to the family, but questioned the decision to move them from the cellar into psychiatric care.

“Pulling them abruptly out of this situation, without transition, to hold them and isolating them to some extent, it can’t be good for them,” said Kampusch, now 20, in an interview. “I believe it might have been even better to leave them where they were, but that was probably impossible. This case is not like mine, where that was not my environment. They were born there and I can imagine that there is a strong attachment to that place.”

Elisabeth’s lawyer, Christoph Herbst said: “Elisabeth is very happy to be rediscovering the world. She is very keen to go outside and feel the rain on her skin. But it is important for them to adjust slowly.” He also said that Elisabeth and her children who lived in the cellar have no concept of time and of the future. However, rumors that she has no teeth and cannot talk are not true.

Elisabeth’s sister Gabriele Helm, 36, says she is surprised at how well her sister has endured the ordeal of being locked in a cellar with her children for 24 years.

“None of us can believe how normal Elisabeth seems. She is healthy and very chatty and doing very well. Every day she gets a bit stronger. I can’t say what the family is going through. It’s more than anyone can believe. It has devastated us.”

“We are working together to support Elisabeth. She is overjoyed to see her children. She told them they were beautiful and she is spending all the time getting to know them.”

Elisabeth tells her family that all she longs for is a normal life – or as normal a life as they can get. That’s her only wish. One of her children, Felix, is keeping the family in good spirits says her lawyer: “They are all happy and there is a lot of laughter, which you might not expect. Felix makes everyone laugh. They are teaching him to run because inside the cellar he could not run. Elisabeth is really an impressive person. She is very strong. She’s happy now for the first time.”

Josef Fritzl,73, who imprisoned and raped his daughter for 24 years claims he is not a monster and blamed both Hitler and his mother for making him the way he is. He said he did not have sex with Elisabeth until she was older than 12, which is when she claims he first abused her. “I am not a man that has sex with little children.”

“I knew that Elisabeth did not want it, what I did with her. The pressure to do the forbidden thing was just too big to withstand.”

Fritzl would visit Elisabeth every few days, delivering food and repeatedly raping her. “It was an obsession with me,” he said. Fritzl also described the amazing planning and secrecy behind his crime, admitting he had thought about it for years. Fritzl claimed he had kidnapped the teenage Elisabeth to “rescue” her from alcohol and bad company. He said he got into a “vicious circle“:

“My situation just got more crazy. I was scared of being arrested, and that my family and everybody that knew me would know my crime … I always knew over 24 years what I did was not correct, and that I must be mad.”

“I am not a monster,” Fritzl said. “I could have killed all of them and no one would have known. No one would have ever found about it.”

In a bizarre admission, Fritzl said he had incestuous feelings for his mother, whom he described as the greatest woman in the world. “She taught me discipline.”

He went on to complain that the coverage of his daughter’s abuse was one-sided. He remains in jail under tight security. His attorney said Fritzl was a “broken man” who belonged in a mental hospital rather than prison.

Reinhard Haller, a leading forensic psychiatrist in Austria, disagreed with claims that Fritzl was insane: “His main motivation was the exercise of power. It is not a sign of mental illness but rather of an extreme personality disorder.”

And Fritzl may be in more trouble. The Austrian authorities have revealed that there are more rooms in the underground dungeon that have yet to be examined, which Fritzl is believed to have sealed off years ago. Fritzl has a history of sex crimes including a conviction for rape and attempted rape as well as being investigated for an unrelated murder, and now police fear the extra rooms may contain evidence of further crimes.

Police are set to break down walls in the cellar to get to the hidden rooms this week and plan to investigate the electrics and plumbing to ascertain whether Fritzl – an electrical engineer – could have built the dungeon, or whether he had help. They will also scan the ground surrounding the cellar to check if more rooms exist or if there are any objects buried in the garden. The dogs and radars being used can detect human body parts underground.

Meanwhile, the murky depths of Fritzl’s mind are being examined by Austria’s leading forensic psychiatrist, Dr Adelheid Kastner. Prosecutors want Dr Kastner, 46, to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

“I am conducting exploratory conversations to get to know every possible part of the defendant’s personality. The court wants me to probe several questions and has given me a deadline. But if I need longer, then the court will have to wait” said Dr Kasner.

It remains a mystery as to how Fritzl managed to smuggle two beds underground unnoticed as well as a large washing machine and supplies for Elisabeth and the children.

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Austrian “Horror House” Discovered

Posted by shadmia on April 29, 2008

Josef Fritzl, 73, of Amstetten, Austria had 14 children, seven by his wife, Rosemarie, 69, and seven by his daughter, Elisabeth, 42. Josef is now behind bars in what the Austrian press describe as the case of the house of horrors.

It all began 24 years ago in 1984 when Josef, an electrical engineer, kidnapped, drugged and imprisoned his 18-year-old daughter in the basement of their home in Amstetten, an industrial town 75 miles west of Vienna. He then told his wife that their daughter had run away from home. He kept her locked in a 540-square-foot prison of underground rooms, which he had previously built, some barely large enough to stand upright in. He had planned the dungeon meticulously and it was well soundproofed. The door to the prison was concealed behind shelves and secured with an electronic lock to which only Fritzl had the code.

While in captivity, Elisabeth Fritzl gave birth to the seven children by her father, one of whom died shortly after birth, which Josef disposed of in a furnace. Each time Elisabeth became pregnant, Fritzl delivered the children himself. Of the six remaining children he took three of them – Lisa, now 16, Monika, 14, and Alexander, 11 – out of the cellar after birth and came up with an elaborate charade to explain their sudden appearance to his wife. The other three children – Kerstin, 19, Stefan, 18, and Felix, 5 – were left to be raised by Elisabeth in his home-made dungeon.

Josef’s 18-year imprisonment of his daughter came to an end when Kerstin became seriously ill and had to be taken to hospital. Medical authorities at the hospital became suspicious and called the police. Josef was picked up, and later under questioning, revealed the existence of the basement prison. Police freed Elisabeth Fritzl and the two other children, all of whom were quickly put in the care of medical and mental health experts. Elisabeth, although “greatly disturbed“, agreed to give them a full statement – on condition that they made sure she would never have to see her father again. She claimed that she had been sexually abused by him since age 11. Fritzl appeared briefly in court and was sent to jail to await trial. He faces a15-year sentence if convicted of rape.

Senior police officer, Dr Franz Prucher, says the criminal case has shaken the force.

“We’re being confronted with an unfathomable crime,” Austria’s interior minister, Günther Platter, said as the details began to unfold. “This case is one of incomprehensible brutality and horror, the most shattering and serious case of its kind that has ever come to light in Austria.”

Questions were being asked by everyone from commentators and parents to psychologists and politicians, as to how what the Austrian press has dubbed the “house of horrors” case had come to happen in the small town of Amstetten.

“There are pressing questions raised by this monstrous crime which need to be put to a rich, self-satisfied society in which during a quarter of a century what was happening in the immediate vicinity went apparently unnoticed,” Petra Stuiber wrote in a commentary in the Austrian liberal daily Der Standard.

“How is it possible that no one ever heard or saw anything, how can it be that no one ever asked questions?” she wrote. “What does it say about neighbors, relations, acquaintances and not least about authorities who had anything to do with the family, that the perpetrator succeeded in ‘deceiving’ everybody?”

Local social services told the Austrian Press Agency that there appeared to be nothing suspicious about the family and that Mr Fritzl managed to explain “very plausibly” how three of his infant grandchildren had turned up on his doorstep. Even his wife, Rosemarie Fritzl, “had no idea” what was going on, according to the police, and was devastated to hear of her husband’s alleged crimes. She apparently accepted her husband’s explanation that Elisabeth had run off to join a religious cult at the age of 18 – and that over the intervening years dumped three babies on their doorstep with notes saying she could not cope.

Amstetten’s local governor, Hans-Heinz Lenze, told Austria’s public broadcaster ORF that the children had had regular visits from social workers, who never heard any complaints or noticed anything to arouse their suspicions. He said they were well-behaved at school and fitted in well with their classmates. The three were apparently unaware of their mother’s existence, let alone that their siblings Kerstin, Stefan and Felix were living below them. Mr Lenze also told ORF that Mr Fritzl had telephoned him last week and thanked him and the social services for looking after his family during his granddaughter Kerstin’s illness.

Josef Fritzl, who does have a criminal record, is believed to have spent time in prison in the 1960s for the assault and also has at least one other conviction, for arson, according to Austrian police. Prosecutors are understood to be trawling through court records to find details of his previous offences to see if they shed light on what they have described as his “unfathomable” actions to his own family. The revelation he already has a criminal record will increase the anger that his behavior could have gone undetected by social services for almost a quarter of a century. It also indicates his wife Rosemarie must have been aware – at least to some degree – of her husband’s sinister side.

Investigators are also desperate to determine how his victims could have been hidden away for so long from their neighbors and everyone else in the town, which has a population of just 23,000. They are said to be examining the padded walls of the cellar to work out whether the children’s screams could be heard by neighbors.

Meanwhile, residents refuse to believe Fritzl could have acted alone, while others cannot believe that the “normal” family were hiding such a horrendous secret.

Anita Fabian, a teacher in the town, said: “How is it possible that no one knew anything for years? This was not possible without accomplices.”

Guenter Pramreiter, who owns a bakery down the street from the Fritzls’ home said the couple were regular customers.

“They appeared normal, just like any other family,” he said. “I’m totally shocked. This was next door. It’s terrible.”

See More Video News Coverage Here.

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