Austrian 'hid daughter in cellar'

The Scotsman

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Apr 1, 2008
South of the Haggis Munching Line
Page last updated at 20:52 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 21:52 UK

A 73-year-old Austrian is under arrest on suspicion of hiding his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and fathering seven children with her, police say. The existence of the woman, believed missing since 1984 and now 42, emerged after a teenager said to be her daughter was taken to hospital.

Both the woman and teenage girl are receiving medical treatment and the other children are in care.

A police investigation in Amstetten, Lower Austria Province, is continuing.

The suspect, named only as Josef F, was arrested on suspicion of incest and keeping his daughter in captivity. He has not responded to the charges against him, police say.

One of the children the man allegedly fathered died in infancy, police believe.

Three children, including the 19-year-old who was taken to hospital, were allegedly kept in the cellar with their mother while the other three reportedly grew up with their grandparents.

DNA tests will be taken to establish whether Josef F was indeed their father.

Placed in care

The alleged crimes came to light after the teenager, named as Kerstin F, was dropped off at the Amstetten hospital last weekend.

Finding Kerstin seriously ill, doctors appealed for her mother, who at that time was assumed to be missing, to come forward to provide more details about her medical history.

Josef F allegedly then released the mother and two other children from the cellar, telling his wife Rosemarie that she had chosen to return home, police say.

It was not immediately clear how police were alerted.

The mother, named as Elisabeth F, has been receiving medical and psychological treatment since being discovered.

She appeared "greatly disturbed" psychologically during questioning and agreed to talk only after authorities assured her that she would no longer have to have contact with her father, and that her children would be taken care of, police added.

The six children are three boys and three girls aged between five and 20.

Police spokesman Franz Polzer told reporters they were now all in "psychological care in a secure institution in a clinic here in this area".

"They are being cared for individually - those between 12 and 16 years of age who grew up with their grandparents, and two boys who, when they came out yesterday with their mother, saw the daylight for the first time in their lives," he said.

Police said three of the children were registered with authorities and lived with the grandparents.

According to police, Josef F and wife Rosemarie had told authorities the three had been abandoned at birth outside their home - in 1993, 1994 and 1997 - each time, the couple claimed, with a note from Elisabeth saying she could not care for the babies herself.

'Dead baby burnt'

The police issued a statement giving details of the alleged abuses Elisabeth recounted to them.

She said she had been sexually abused by her father since the age of 11.

Josef allegedly lured her into the cellar of their house in Amstetten on 28 August 1984, drugging and handcuffing her before locking her up.

It was assumed she had disappeared voluntarily when her parents received a letter from her asking them not to search for her.

"Abused continuously during the 24-year-long imprisonment", Elisabeth bore six children while a seventh, one of a set of twins, died soon after birth.

The dead baby was allegedly taken out of the cellar and burnt by Josef.

Elisabeth said Josef had provided her and three of her children, who were locked up along with her, with clothing and food.

His wife Rosemarie had allegedly not been aware of what was going on.

The discovery of another Austrian woman, who was held captive in a cellar by an abductor for more than eight years, gripped the country in 2006.

Natascha Kampusch finally escaped from her kidnapper, 44-year-old Wolfgang Priklopil, who killed himself shortly afterwards.

Ms Kampusch was abducted at the age of 10 in 1998 and held in a small, windowless cellar beneath Priklopil's garage in the commuter town of Strasshof, near Vienna.

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"His wife Rosemarie had allegedly not been aware of what was going on." Yeah Right!!!! Six kids just arrive by stork over a period of years - happens all the time :rolleyes:

Apparently the wife was unaware because while 3 of the children remained locked up with her, three others were brought into the house with the mother under the pretence the daughter had come back and abandoned them on the doorstep.
By Sylvia Westall Reuters - 48 minutes ago

AMSTETTEN, Austria (Reuters) - A 73-year-old Austrian who has confessed to locking his daughter in a windowless cellar for 24 years and fathering her seven children appeared before a judge on Tuesday.

Investigators were searching the 60 square metre (645 sq ft) cellar beneath electrical engineer Josef Fritzl's two-storey home, Franz Prucher, head of security in Lower Austria said.

"Down there it is just chaos at the moment. We have to go over every detail very carefully," Prucher told Reuters.

Fritzl appeared before a judge in St Poelten, the provincial capital of Lower Austria, on Tuesday, who ordered that police could keep him in detention while inquiries continue.

Officials said Fritzl said nothing on the advice of his lawyer. He was calm when he arrived on Monday and had been put in a cell where he can be monitored in case he tries to commit suicide, said Guenther Moerwald, head of St Poelten prison.

Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, says her father lured her into the cellar of their home in 1984 and drugged and handcuffed her before imprisoning her.

Three of her children, aged 19, 18 and 5, had been locked in the cellar with her since birth and had never seen sunlight. The younger two were boys, the eldest a girl.

Three other children -- two girls and one boy -- were adopted and brought up by Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie.

Police said Fritzl had admitted to burning the body of a seventh child when the baby died soon after birth.

Authorities are still waiting for results of DNA tests to prove Fritzl is the father of the children.

"There are a million unanswered questions," Franz Polzer, head of the criminal investigation unit in Lower Austria, told Reuters. "How could he manage live with what he had done? How did he fool everyone?" Polzer said.

He said he did not blame authorities for missing the case. "I have not been made aware of any error on their part."

"Fritzl was a very cunning man. He not only fooled his wife, but officials, the police, everyone."


The case unfolded when the 19-year-old daughter became ill and was taken to hospital. Doctors appealed for her mother to come forward to give details of her medical history.

The doctor treating the young woman, Albert Reiter, said on Tuesday her condition was critical and her artificially induced coma would continue for several more days.

"Our patient is in a severely life-threatening condition which resulted from a lack of oxygen caused sometime between Wednesday and Friday when she was admitted," Reiter said.

"In addition to 20 years underground, 20 years with no sunlight, 20 years of psychological stress, come other factors like infection," he told German broadcaster N24.

Fritzl brought Elisabeth and her remaining two children out of the cellar after the young woman was hospitalised, telling his wife their "missing" daughter had chosen to return home.

Fritzl kept his daughter and three of the children in a complex which was in some places no more than 1.7 metres (5 ft 6 in) high and contained a padded cell, according to authorities.

Photographs of the cellar show a narrow passage leading to rooms that included a cooking area, with children's drawings on the walls, a sleeping area and a small bathroom with a shower.

Fritzl had hidden the entrance to the cell behind shelves and only he knew the code for the concrete door.

Authorities have been asking how events in the house, situated in a busy street with shops in the small industrial town of Amstetten, 130 km (80 miles) west of Vienna, passed unnoticed for so long.

Commentator Petra Stuiber wrote in Austrian daily Der Standard that what she termed a rich, self-satisfied society needed to examine why it was allowed to occur.

"How is it possible that nobody heard or saw anything? How can it be that nobody asked questions?" said Stuiber.

The local children's welfare office has come in under particular scrutiny. A local official told daily Oesterreich that while juvenile welfare officials had been in touch with the children, Fritzl and his wife were never checked.

The case has shocked Austria, less than two years after an Austrian teenager, Natascha Kampusch, escaped from the basement where she had been locked up by an abductor for eight years.

Elisabeth agreed to make a thorough statement 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.

Police believe Josef's wife did not know what happened to her daughter when she disappeared in 1984.

Fritzl had said Elisabeth had joined a sect and that she had left three of the children on the doorstep. He forced Elisabeth to write letters by hand to prove his claims, said the police.

(Additional reporting by Ayhan Uyanik in St Poelten)

(Writing by Karin Strohecker and Paul Bolding, editing by Dominic Evans)