An Austrian court has sentenced Josef Fritzl to life in prison for charges including murder by neglect and enslavement. He will serve his sentence in a psychiatric hospital. He and his lawyers will not appeal the sentence.
Fritzl had been charged with kidnapping, rape, incest, grievous assault, enslavement and murder for holding his daughter Elisabeth captive in a damp dungeon and fathering seven children with her during 24 years of sexual abuse.
Fritzl had made a statement just before the sentencing. “Fritzl’s final words to the court were that he regretted with all his heart the damage done to his family”, FRANCE 24’s special correspondent Angela Yeoh reported from the courtroom. “He added that he wanted to limit that damage from now on, although it is unclear what he means by that,” said Yeoh.
In her closing statement, prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said that “Fritzl was always calm and methodical in his actions”. She asked the jury to “base their verdict on the truth, not Elisabeth’s story nor Fritzl’s story, but on actual facts.”
ding the death of Fritzl’s newborn son, she reminded the jury that an expert testified that Fritzl must have been aware that the baby was fighting for his life. Yet, she argued, Fritzl still failed to act, making him responsible for murder by neglect.
Defence lawyer Rudolf Mayer asked the jury to take mitigating circumstances into account, saying that Fritzl has a personality disorder that requires psychiatric care.
On Wednesday, the defendant dramatically changed his plea to guilty on charges of murder and enslavement, although he had earlier rejected those two charges. Fritzl said he had a change of heart after seeing his daughter's videotaped testimony. According to his lawyer, he was also shocked by his daughter’s unexpected presence in the courtroom.
Fritzl, who many have described as a tyrant who ruled his family with an iron fist, locked his daughter up in a cellar of his own home on August 29, 1984. The room had no sunlight, no hot water, no heating and no fresh air.