Austrian incest father admits to all charges

18th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Josef Fritzl faced life in prison on Wednesday after changing his plea, including murder and slavery, on the third day of his trial.

SANKT POELTEN – Austrian incest father Josef Fritzl faced life in prison on Wednesday after admitting charges of murder and slavery, dramatically changing his plea on the third day of his trial.

Fritzl, who had already pleaded guilty to rape and incest, altered his plea at the start of the day's proceedings after being confronted by the video testimony of the daughter Elisabeth whom he raped at will over a 24-period.

"I plead guilty to the crimes I've been charged with," the 73-year-old told the court in northeastern Austria at the start of the day's proceedings.

Asked by the judge what had caused him to change his plea, he replied: "My daughter's videotaped testimony."

And he added: "I'm sorry" for what he did.

Fritzl, who has been on suicide watch during the trial, had previously denied the most serious charge of murder relating to the death of one of Elisabeth's seven children, who he fathered.

Fritzl had maintained that the baby was stillborn and he burnt the body.

During the trial, jurors had heard how Fritzl used his daughter "as a toy" during the 24 years he held her captive in a narrow cellar with no hot water, no heating, no fresh air or sunlight.

"He came (to the cellar). Lights out. Rape. Lights on," said prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser.

"I went down there twice and there's a morbid atmosphere," added Burkheiser.

"It's damp, it's musty, it's mouldy."

After Fritzl had portrayed himself as a victim of childhood neglect, jurors then had to watch hours of testimony from Elisabeth who described her ordeal lasting nearly a quarter of a century.

The Fritzl case, centred around the town of Amstetten some 100 kilometres west of Vienna, grabbed headlines worldwide when it broke last April.

Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie, 69, had reported 18-year-old Elisabeth missing in 1984, saying she had joined a sect.

During the following 24 years, she was raped regularly, giving birth to seven children in her narrow cellar, which her father gradually expanded to 40 square metres (430 square feet), with three rooms and a small kitchen and bathroom area.

The dungeon, protected by three electronically locked doors, had no hot water, heating, sunlight or fresh air.

But Fritzl tried to create a new family in the basement, eating meals there, singing birthday songs to the children, and teaching them to read and write, said his lawyer Rudolf Mayer.

"He loved them in his own weird way," he said.

Three of Elisabeth's children were brought to live with their "grandparents" while the other three spent their entire lives in the dungeon, never seeing daylight until their release last April.

Rosemarie says she was unaware her daughter was living below and was never declared a suspect by police.

AFP / Expatica

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