- Title: AUSTRIA/UNKNOWN LOCATION: Austrian admits 24-year abuse of captive daughter
- Date: 29th April 2008
- Summary: PEOPLE AND REPORTERS IN THE BACK OF HOUSE FROM WHERE BASEMENT CAN BE SEEN CONCRETE WALL OF THE BASEMENT CLOSE UP OF WINDOW OF HOUSE POLICEMAN AT GARDEN GATE FORENSIC TEAM MEMBER ENTERING BACK OF HOUSE
- Embargoed: 14th May 2008 11:30
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVA3IB8M0R8Y8Y0KJY3EHD2OY3SK
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: A 73-year-old Austrian electrical engineer has confessed to holding his daughter captive in a secret, windowless cellar for 24 years and fathering seven children by her, police said on Monday (April 28).
The case, centred on a nondescript two-storey building in the small industrial town of Amstetten, bears chilling similarities to that of Austrian Natascha Kampusch who spent eight years locked up in a basement before escaping in 2006.
Some parts of the 60 square metre basement in which the family were kept were no more than 1.70 metres (5 ft 6 in) high and officials said the basement even contained a padded cell.
Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, says her father, Josef Fritzl, lured her into the basement of the block in 1984 and drugged and handcuffed her before imprisoning her.
Three of her children, aged 19, 18 and five, had been locked up in the basement with her since birth and had never seen sunlight, police said, raising worries about their physical and mental state. The younger two were boys, the eldest a girl.
The case unfolded when the 19-year-old girl became seriously ill and was taken to hospital, prompting doctors to appeal for her mother to come forward to provide more details about her medical history.
Franz Polzer, head of the criminal investigations unit in the province of Lower Austria told reporters that Fritzl confessed in front of criminal officers to imprisoning his daughter.
As well as confessing to locking up his daughter for 24 years and fathering the seven children, Fritzl admitted to burning the body of the seventh child in the heating system when it died soon after birth, said Polzer, head of criminal investigations in the state of Lower Austria.
Investigators spent the day combing through the cells where the victims had been held captive. Forensic experts in white uniforms and gloves carried out boxes of evidence from the house which is on a busy street with shops.
Fritzl, whom police described as "dynamic, bossy and authoritarian", had hidden the entrance to the cell behind shelves and only he knew the secret code for the reinforced concrete door, said officials.
Polzer said Fritzl's wife Rosemarie was unaware, along with other family members, of her imprisoned daughter in her basement.
After Elisabeth disappeared, Fritzl said Elisabeth had joined a sect and that she had left the children on the doorstep. He forced Elisabeth to handwrite letters to prove his claims, said the police.
The case has raised questions about how authorities and neighbours failed to notice anything unusual in the "house of horrors", not least because officials said Fritzl had over the years built extensions to the secret cellar.
"Authorities missed on finding out on this earlier when the children were left at the door. I spent a good half an hour going looking though the file of child care authorities and I checked the records made by our people. The context was well documented and they found out that the family atmosphere was good and that the mother took good care of the fostered children and it was found out that the children had a good level of education," Hans Heinz, Lenze Governor of Amstetten District said.
The children raised by their grandparents were integrated into the community, said officials, noting they were members of the police sports club and voluntary fire brigade.
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