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Europe

Fritzl pleads guilty to rape, not murder

Video by Angela YEOH , Willy BRACCIANO

Text by Angela YEOH

Latest update : 2009-03-18

The trial of Josef Fritzl, the man accused of keeping his daughter in a dungeon and fathering seven children, opened in Austria, with the accused pleading guilty to incest, and rape, but not guilty to murder and enslavement.

Josef Fritzl led a double life, which ended last April.

 

Police found the cellar beneath his family home that he'd turned into an underground prison. Fritzl allegedly locked up and abused his daughter Elisabeth for 24 years.

 

Police say he admitted raping her and fathering her seven children. What Fritzl called his "second family" remained a secret for decades, until he was forced to take one child who fell ill to hospital.

 

"He deceived everyone,” says Franz Polzer, head of the Bureau of Criminal Affairs for lower Austria. “He had already deceived the authorities about the girl being missing.”
 

Elisabeth disappeared in August 1984. She was only 18 when she became a prisoner beneath the family home. Her father made her write letters pretending she'd run away to join a sect.
 

Of the seven children Elisabeth bore in the cellar, one died shortly after birth. Fritzl took three others upstairs, convincing his wife Rosemarie to take them in. And three stayed in the cellar with their mother until they were finally released last April.
 

Elisabeth and her six children were reunited in hospital where they received treatment. They're now living in a secret location under new identities.
 

Meanwhile, a psychiatric examination found Josef Fritzl mentally fit to stand trial, though he was diagnosed with a severe personality disorder.
 

Fritzl's lawyer says he will plead guilty to charges of rape, incest, coercion and enslavement. The 73-year-old expects to spend the rest of his days in jail.

Date created : 2009-03-16

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