Austrian Kept Daughter in Cell for 24 Years, Police Say

By Veronika Oleksyn
Associated Press
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

AMSTETTEN, Austria, April 28 -- A man has confessed to imprisoning his daughter for 24 years in a windowless basement cell and fathering seven children with her, including three who spent their entire lives there, police said Monday.

Josef Fritzl, 73, also told investigators that when one of the children died shortly after birth, he tossed the body into an incinerator, said Franz Polzer, head of the Lower Austrian Bureau of Criminal Affairs.

The daughter, now 42, had been missing since 1984 and was found by police in the town of Amstetten on Saturday evening after police received a tip. She and the children have been placed under psychiatric care in an undisclosed location.

She told police that her father began sexually abusing her when she was 11, and that when she was 18 he sedated her, handcuffed her and locked her in the cellar. A letter surfaced a month after her disappearance, asking her parents not to search for her, police said.

Authorities on Monday released several photos of the cramped basement cell. Investigators said a keyless-entry system apparently prevented escape from the reinforced-concrete cell.

Fritzl appeared briefly in court Monday in the city of St. Poelten, where he was to be held pending trial.

"He admitted that he locked his daughter, who was 18 at the time, in the cellar, that he repeatedly had sex with her, and that he is the father of her seven children," Polzer said.

Three of the surviving children lived with the grandparents and were registered with authorities. The three others -- ages 19, 18 and 5 -- had been confined to the cell since birth and had never seen sunlight, Polzer said.

A local official said Fritzl's wife apparently had "no idea" of what went on and was devastated.

The case unfolded after a gravely ill teenager was found unconscious April 19 in the building where her grandparents live and was hospitalized in Amstetten, about 75 miles west of Vienna. Authorities publicly appealed for the child's mother to come forward. On a tip, they picked up the 42-year-old woman, identified as Elisabeth F., and her father Saturday near the hospital.

The case recalled that of Natascha Kampusch, who in 2006 made a dramatic escape after being held captive for more than eight years in a Vienna suburb, confined much of the time in a tiny dungeon. Kampusch, now 20, issued a statement Monday saying she wanted to contact Elisabeth to offer emotional and financial help.

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