Monday, April 28, 2008

Austrian locked up daughter in the cellar for 24 years and fathered 7 children with her

VIENNA - Austrian police on Sunday arrested a 73-year-old man accused accused of locking up his daughter in a basement for 24 years and fathering seven children with her.

A prosecution spokesman said that Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, had accused her father of "massive crimes". It is the third stunning case to be revealed in Austria in recent years of children being locked away by their parents. Investigators said the woman gave birth to seven children in the sealed cellar of her father's house near Amstetten in Lower Austria state, in the east of the country.

Gerhard Sedlacek, spokesman for the Sankt-Polkten prosecutor's office, told a press conference that Fritzl's accusations of kidnapping and incest are "credible". Police said they are still trying to get the man, silent since his arrest, to talk, although the head of Lower Austria's criminal detective division, Franz Polzer, added that they are hopeful of a breakthrough.

Police said DNA samples would be taken as part of their investigation.

They said the woman had three boys and three girls aged from five to 20 and that a seventh child died three days after its birth. According to ORF national television, the mother and her children are now in the hands of a team of psychologists. The six surviving children were never registered with the authorities. And the extraordinary case only came to light after one of the girls, a 19-year-old named Kerstin, was admitted to hospital in Amstetten in a serious condition in mid-April.

Doctors trying to establish the nature of her infection sought to contact the mother for background medical information and Fritzl's incarceration came to light. Fritzl had been reported missing for several years and Interpol had opened a file on her disappearance.

Local Austrian authorities, who had no social security information on her, believed she had fallen into the grip of a religious sect. Several spectacular cases of captivity have emerged in Austria in recent years, notably that of Natascha Kampusch, who was locked up by a man in the basement of a house in a Vienna suburb for eight years before she escaped.

Kampusch was 10 when Wolfgang Priklopil abducted her on her way to school in 1998. The 44-year-old kidnapper killed himself just hours after she fled by throwing himself under a train. In another case, three young girls were locked up for seven years by their mentally ill mother near the city of Linz.

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