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Austrian incest father 'plotting for years'

Latest update : 2008-05-05

Josef Fritzl, accused of keeping his daughter as a sex-slave in an underground cellar for 24 years, was plotting for years. Austrian police say he began planning the dungeon in 1979. Fritzl's lawyer defended his client's insanity plea.

The man accused of keeping his daughter as a sex slave in a windowless Austrian cellar for 24 years may have planned to build the tiny cell where she was held years earlier, police said on Monday.

Josef Fritzl, 73, built an extension to his house at number 40 Ybbsstrasse between 1978 and 1983.

The original house dated back to around 1890. Fritzl received permission to build the extension in 1978.

"We believe that, already in the planning phase, the intention must have been there to build... a secret area, a small dungeon," chief investigator Franz Polzer told a news conference here.

Fritzl, currently in custody, has admitted to police that he imprisoned and sexually abused his daughter Elisabeth, now 42, in a cramped bunker beneath the family home since 1984 when she was 18.

Initially, Elisabeth was held in a single room of 35 square metres (380 square feet), but when she became pregnant from the sexual abuse and gave birth to several children, Fritzl extended the dungeon, breaking through walls into other unused cellar rooms beneath the older part of the house, Polzer explained.

By 1993, the dungeon comprised three rooms measuring a total 55 square metres, the investigator said.

Polzer said they had found an earlier entrance to the dungeon, a half-tonne concrete door, that had clearly been used before the two reinforced steel doors that investigators had initially found.

In all, "if you want to get into the dungeon, you have to go through eight locked doors" and electronic combinations were needed to open the last three, he said.

For the past week, around 30 investigators have been closely examining the cellar where Elisabeth Fritzl and three of her children were kept prisoner by Josef Fritzl.

A total seven children were born from the abuse, three of whom were kept incarcerated in the dungeon.

Another three were legally adopted by Fritzl and lived with him in the house upstairs. The seventh child died shortly after birth and Fritzl told investigators he disposed of the body in a wood-fired boiler in the cellar.

Date created : 2008-05-05