fritzl.jpgThis is a horrifying story from Austria. It is not directly tied to the pro-life issue but is so shocking I must blog on it. Reported the AFP today:

An elderly Austrian… confessed Monday to imprisoning his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and fathering her 7 children, prosecutors said.
Josef Fritzl, 73, “has admitted building the dungeon and to holding his daughter and three children there,” prosecution spokesman Gerhard Sedlacek [said].
Fritzl also admitted incest “but insisted there was no force involved,” said Sedlacek. One of the children died at an early age….

Read how the story came to light and view police photos of the cellar dungeon on page 2.
[Photo of Fritzl courtesy of AFP; police photos courtesy of]

14 police meanwhile scoured the 3 cramped underground rooms in the family house in Amstetten… where Elisabeth Fritzl and her children were held prisoner.
She has alleged she was drugged by her father in August 1984 and had been his prisoner ever since. All seven children were born in the “dungeon”.

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The 6 surviving children are 3 boys and 3 girls aged between five and 20.
The rooms, measuring “50-60 square metres in all” and with a ceiling just 1.70 metres (5.5 feet) high were “furnished like a flat”, Sedlacek said.
Lower Austria police chief, Franz Polzer, said there was “a wide range of questions that still need answering” such as how Fritzl supplied the woman and children with food, how the babies were born and cared for in such cramped conditions, and how he could have incarcerated his victims for so long without his wife knowing….
DNA tests are being carried out to establish if Fritzl is the father of the 6surviving children. The 7th child, a twin, is believed to have died shortly after birth and the body subsequently burned, police said.
The… tabloid portrayed Fritzl as a keen fisherman, popular among neighbours and locals….

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He legally adopted 2 of the boys and 1 girl, allegedly telling his wife, Rosemarie, and local authorities that 3 babies had been left by Elisabeth on their doorstep, in different years.
Each delivery was accompanied by a letter purportedly signed by Elisabeth Fritzl saying she could not support the child because she already had others to care for.
The trio went to school as normal, seemingly unaware that their mother and three other siblings (a girl of 19, and boys at 18 and 5) were trapped underground.
Neither neighbours nor social services appear to have had any inkling, either.
“They had a swimming pool in the garden, we would hear them laughing the three of them,” said one neighbour….
Elisabeth Fritzl told investigators her mother knew nothing about the sexual abuse she had endured since the age of 11, some seven years before she was locked away.

The crime came to light when one of the dungeoned children grew ill. According to the Associated Press:

The case unfolded after a gravely ill teenager was found unconscious on April 19 in the building where her grandparents live, and taken to a hospital in the town of Amstetten. Told that the sick 19-year-old’s mother was missing, authorities publicly appealed for her to come forward.

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Officers received a tip and picked up the mother near the hospital on Saturday, police said.
The mother, whom authorities identified as Elisabeth F., told officers that she had just been released after two decades of captivity at the hands of her father. She said that on Aug. 28, 1984 her father had sedated her, handcuffed her and locked her in a room in the cellar of the family’s apartment building….
Police said Josef, 73, and Rosemarie had raised three of Elisabeth’s children in their apartment in a two-story building in Amstetten, a small town about 80 miles west of Vienna.
Josef and Rosemarie registered the children with authorities, saying that they had found them outside their home in 1993, 1994 and 1997, at least one with a note from Elisabeth saying she could not care for the child.

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The three other children apparently remained in the cellar with Elisabeth, police said….
Police said the sick 19-year-old, Kerstin, had been found unconscious on April 19 in the apartment building, with a handwritten note purportedly signed by Elisabeth, asking that she be given care.

More info from the Times Online:

A 7th child was said to have died 3 days after his birth. His body was tossed into an incinerator at the family home….
Beneath the family home beyond a hidden electronic trapdoor the children, aged 19, 18, 16, 14, 11, and 5, were conceived and born….

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Police have spent the last two days exploring the network of rooms where they say Elisabeth was first imprisoned on August 28 1984, aged 19, after being drugged and handcuffed by her father. The tiny entrance was concealed in a workshop in a public part of the cellar.
“There was a shelf with plenty of cans and containers, and behind the shelf was a door made of reinforced concrete, secured electronically and running on steel rails, and only the suspect knew the code,” said Heinz Lenze, a local police official.
Once inside the dungeon, police reported, they found all the passages extremely narrow, the ceiling is no higher than 5ft 6ins (170cm) and the floors uneven. They have found a makeshift shower room, cooking rings for the secret family to heat food, and a room lined entirely in rubber.

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Mr F, a retired engineer who used to work for the construction company Zehnter, was said by police to have been continuously renovating and extending the hidden cellar. Detectives say they have not ruled out finding further secret rooms underneath the sprawling villa.
All 7 children were born in the cellar, police say, but within months of their births they were divided between the dark and the light. As babies aged between nine and 15 months, three of them were adopted and raised by their grandparents, leading normal lives – attending school and playing in the swimming pool in the gardens of the villa.

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