Austrian man kept daughter prisoner in cellar for 24 years

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Police in the Lower Austrian town of Amstetten have arrested a 73 year old man who is alleged to have kept his daughter, now aged 42, locked in the cellar of his house in Amstetten since 29th August 1984.

The man, identified by police as Josef Fritzl, is alleged to have started sexually abusing his daughter, named as Elisabeth Fritzl, when she was eleven years old, and to have subsequently fathered seven children by her. One of the children, one of a set of twins born in 1996, died of neglect shortly after birth and the body was burned by the father. The surviving six children, three boys and three girls, are currently aged between 5 and 20 years old. Three of the children were left on Josef F.'s doorstep and subsequently raised as the adoptive children of Josef F. and his wife, Rosemarie, while the other three children were left with their mother and never saw daylight until she was discovered. Rosemarie F. is said to have been unaware of her husbands' activities.

Police became suspicious when a 19-year-old daughter, Kerstin, was taken to hospital with a mysterious life-threatening illness, and the family's medical records were checked. Police say that Elisabeth F. appeared to be "greatly disturbed" psychologically, and only agreed to talk after the authorities assured her that she would not have to have contact with her father, and that her children would be cared for.

The news has shocked Austria, recalling the case of Natascha Kampusch who was kidnapped aged 10, and escaped after being held in a "dungeon" for eight years in 2006.

DNA tests are to be undertaken to confirm the paternity of the children.