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DNA tests confirm father in Austrian incest case

Latest update : 2008-04-30

DNA tests confirmed Thursday that the 73-year-old Austrian man who kept his daughter locked up for 24 years in his basement is the father of her six surviving children.

DNA tests on Tuesday confirmed that 73-year-old Josef Fritzl is the father of the children his daughter bore while a prisoner in a cellar for nearly a quarter of a century, investigators said.
  
Fritzl appeared in court to be remanded in custody while doctors shielded Elisabeth Fritzl and her six surviving children in isolation from a world they barely know.
  
"The DNA tests provided decisive evidence that the six children that Elisabeth gave birth to have the same father," chief investigator Franz Polzer told a press conference.
  
"We're talking about Josef Fritzl, 73," he added.
  
Elisabeth Fritzl, now 42, and her children, are sequestered "in a treatment container that can be locked from the inside" to shield them from the outside world, child and youth pyschologist Paulus Hochgatterer told Austrian television.
  
One of the seven children she bore during her 24 years in captivity died shortly after birth. Three of the surviving children had never left the three cramped underground rooms where they were held and had never seen natural daylight.
  
Three other children were legally adopted by Josef Fritzl and lived with him and his wife Rosemarie upstairs in the family home, totally unaware of the fate of their siblings imprisoned in the cellar below.
  
The women and all the children face several weeks of treatment,  Hans-Heinz Lenze, head of social services in Amstetten, told a news conference.
  
Psychologists were also available to Elisabeth's adult brothers and sisters, as well as the classmates of the three children allowed to lead "normal lives", Lenze said.
  
"Only very gradually are they being exposed to the outside world," Hochgatterer said, adding that "given the circumstances, they're actually doing quite well."
  
The two sets of children, who had been completely unaware of each others' existence, were tentatively beginning to get to know one another, even if two of the three who had spent all their lives underground "have a way of communicating that is anything but normal," said Berthold Kepplinger, director of the psychiatric clinic in Amstetten-Mauer.
  
Austrian Justice Minister Maria Berger warned media that they could be fined up to 20,000 euros (31,000 dollars) for publishing photos of the victims or details of their private lives where there was no express need.
  
"It's important that the victims are now left in peace," Berger told a news conference in Vienna.
  
The father was remanded in custody when he made a first appearance before a judge on Tuesday. Fritzl has also expressed his regret to the town chief in Amstetten.
  
"He looked at me with a face full of remorse and said: 'I'm very sorry. I regret this very much for my family," said Hans-Heinz Lenze, municipal chief of Amstetten and head of its social services, who met Fritzl while he was in police custody at the weekend.
  
He now faces 15 years in jail if convicted of rape and sequestration.
  
Doctors would determine when police would be allowed to question Elisabeth Fritzl and the children, but that was unlikely to be for several days, Lenze said.
  
Authorities were looking for a special school for the children and they have proposed changing the names of Elisabeth, her children and her adult brothers and sisters, Lenze said.
  
The case has shocked Austria, coming only two years after a similar case of sequestration, that of Natascha Kampusch, hit the headlines.
  
Kampusch, now 20, was kidnapped and imprisoned from the age of 10 for over eight years by her captor Wolfgang Priklopil until she managed to escape in August 2006.
  
Three of Elisabeth Fritzl's children have never known the outside world, except via the television set and radio their father Josef allowed them to have in the dungeon.
  
Their mental and cognitive development were therefore likely to be impaired, said psychologist Hochgatterer.
  
The Vienna-based psychiatrist who looked after Kampusch, Max Friedrich, said the rehabilitation of the Fritzls would be long and complex.
  
"You can't lose hope that they'll one day be able to lead autonomous lives, but it'll take years, and scars will remain," for all the children. "Their world has fallen apart," Friedrich told AFP.
  
The youngest child, five-year-old, seems most able to adapt to his new life and was excited about being able to ride in a car, his carers said.
  
Fritzl's wife, 69-year-old Rosemarie, was also in deep shock at the discovery of her husband's horrific double life.
  
The oldest of the children, 19-year-old Kerstin, whose hospitalisation at the weekend led to the discovery of the case, is in critical condition and had been placed in an artificial coma, said the chief doctor of the hospital in Amstetten.
  
"If there's one thing we've learnt from the case of Natascha, it's that the victims must be given time to rebuild themselves," pyschologist Friedrich said.

Date created : 2008-04-29

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