Life for Fritzl over House of Horror abuse
Josef Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment and will be placed in a mental institution for imprisoning and raping his daughter for 24 years.SANKT POELTEN – A jury on Thursday ordered Josef Fritzl detained for life for treating his daughter as a sex slave in the cellar of his home during a 24-year orgy of depravity in which he fathered seven children.
The court in the Austrian town of Sankt Poelten said Fritzl would have to spend the rest of his life interned in a mental institute after a psychiatrist warned that the 73-year-old Fritzl felt "born to rape".
If at a later stage, doctors found Fritzl cured, he would have to serve the rest of his sentence behind prison bars.
The jury found him unanimously guilty of murdering one of the seven children through negligence, as well as all other charges of rape, incest and sequestration in the cellar of the family house in Amstetten.
Fritzl at first denied murder and enslavement but changed his plea after being confronted by the video testimony of his daughter Elisabeth.
Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said his client found the verdict "fair".
"After confessing to 3,000 instances of rapes, 24 years of captivity in a cellar plus murder, it's obvious that such a sentence will be handed down," Mayer told journalists. "Obviously, he thinks this sentence is fair."
A court spokesman said that Fritzl was "very composed" when the sentence was handed down.
Before the verdict had been announced, Fritzl had made a last expression of remorse.
"I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart," the 73-year-old retired engineer told the eight jurors before they retired to quickly reach their unanimous guilty verdict.
"Unfortunately, I can't change anything now."
But chief prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said the remorse shown by Fritzl was a sham.
"Don't believe him, he's shown his true face in trying to exploit people's gullibility," she said of Fritzl and his stunning change of heart on Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to enslaving Elisabeth as well as murder.
The murder charge related to the death of a new-born twin boy whom Fritzl did nothing to help when aware that he was mortally ill.
Elisabeth Fritzl, now 42, went to the court on Tuesday to see her father's reaction to 11 hours of video testimony she recorded for the trial.
Elisabeth's lawyer Eva Plaz also poured scorn on Fritzl's show of remorse, saying the woman wanted her father "to be held accountable until he dies".
"There's not a trace of remorse. Perhaps he is still counting on an early release," she said.
"Don't believe one word from the defendant. The defendant wanted to be master over life and death."
Fritzl had admitted the other four charges against him – incest, rape, sequestration and grievous assault – but pleaded not guilty to murder and slavery when the trial opened on Monday.
Psychiatrist Adelheid Kastner told the court Wednesday that Fritzl posed a danger and should be held in a mental facility.
Fritzl was emotionally stunted, the psychiatrist told the court.
"He is aware – he says so himself – that he has an evil side. He is aware that he was born to rape. He has that partly under control. But as soon as he loosens his grip, everything erupts out."
Fritzl, who ruled his family with an iron fist, locked his daughter up in a cellar of his home on 29 August 1984. He said she had joined an obscure sect.
Three of the surviving children were brought to live with Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie, 69, while the other three spent their entire lives in the dungeon, never seeing daylight.
The case broke last April after the eldest child, a 19-year-old girl named Kerstin, fell severely ill and Elisabeth begged her father to bring her to hospital.
DNA tests later confirmed Josef Fritzl was the father of Elisabeth's six surviving children, aged five to 19.
Elisabeth and her family are now at a secret location while the authorities attempt to help them build a new life.
AFP / Expatica