Austrian incest father Fritzl admits to murder (Lead)

March 18th, 2009 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

St Poelten (Austria), March 18 (DPA) Josef Fritzl, the Austrian father on trial for imprisoning and raping his daughter Elisabeth for 24 years in the cellar of his home, pleaded guilty to murder Wednesday.
At the start of day three in the trial, the 73-year-old, who had already confessed to incest and false imprisonment and had partially confessed to rape, overturned his previous “not guilty” plea to the charge of murder through negligence.

Fritzl told the court Wednesday that he was responsible for the death of a baby his daughter Elisabeth had borne by him in the dungeon where he kept her.

Baby Michael had been ill at birth in 1996 and survived 66 hours.

Fritzl told the court he had not wilfully allowed the baby to die, but had misjudged the health of the infant.

The charge of murder carries a lifelong prison sentence.

Fritzl said the video testimony of his daughter, which was screened to the court Tuesday, had led him to change his plea.

An Austrian newspaper has reported that Elisabeth Fritzl was present in the court during Tuesday’s hearing. Court spokesman Franz Cutka refused to comment Wednesday on the claim by daily Kurier newspaper.

The trial was reopened Wednesday to media and the public. For the first time since the start of proceedings, Fritzl could be seen entering the court without the blue document folder he had used to shield his face.

Expert witness Adelheid Kastner is due Wednesday to give the court a psychiatric assessment of Fritzl’s sanity.

A final verdict on the trial is expected Thursday.

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