Austrian woman kept in dungeon, abused for 24 years

April 28th, 2008 - 4:41 am ICT by admin  

Vienna, April 28 (DPA) Austrians were left shocked Sunday as details emerged of a 42-year-old woman who was sexually abused and held prisoner by her own father for more than 20 years. The 73-year-old man was believed to have fathered six children with his daughter, Police Colonel Franz Polzer said in a press conference in the eastern Austrian town of Amstetten. A seventh infant was believed to have died shortly after his birth.

Police believe the woman, identified as Elisabeth Fritzl, was held captive by her father, Josef, in a basement dungeon below the family apartment in Amstette, since 1984, when she was reported missing by her parents.

In a statement released by the police, Elisabeth Fritzl was quoted as saying she had been abused by her father since age 11. In August 1984, he lured her into the basement, handcuffed her and locked her in.

In the years that followed she had been continuously abused and raped, giving birth to seven children, she told the police.

The police Sunday evening opened the basement dungeon where she was kept, overcoming several electronic locks set up by Josef Fritzl. The rooms were very small and below 1.7 metres in height. The basement contained sleeping cots, washing facilities and a TV set, the Austrian press agency reported.

Three of her six surviving children were locked in the room with her, until her father let them out a few days ago and claimed the errant mother had returned home.

For two of her sons, Stefan, 18, and Felix, 5, it was the first time they had seen daylight, according to the police.

Elisabeth claimed that her mother had not known about her imprisonment. Food and clothing for her and her children had been provided only by Josef.

The “grandfather” had told local authorities that three children, named by the police as Lisa, Monika and Alexander, had been left at his doorstep. They attended local schools.

Josef Fritzl was detained by the police and was being interrogated but refused to cooperate, the police said. Authorities began searching for Elisabeth when a girl, Kerstin, 19, believed to be her daughter, was hospitalised a week earlier in the town Amstetten.

Amstetten authorities had been originally told by the grandfather that the 19-year-old Kerstin, was left with him in a very severe condition April 19 by her mother. The girl, who is believed to suffer from a rare disease, had also been imprisoned for all her life.

According to state broadcaster ORF, authorities originally believed the woman had joined a religious sect, as the letter hinted at seclusion and refusal of education for the children.

The oldest girl remains in intensive care. Hospital officials in Amstetten declined to comment on the case and said no details about the girl’s condition would be divulged for the time being.

DNA samples of all involved had been taken to establish a fuller picture of the case, police officials were quoted as saying. Results were expected by early Monday.

Locals and neighbours expressed shock over the events, reminiscent of the plight of 20-year-old Natascha Kampusch, an Austrian girl who escaped her kidnapper in 2006 after eight years in a basement dungeon.

Her captor, 44-year-old Wolfgang Priklopil, committed suicide after her escape.

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