Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Fritzl trial: Day-by-day

The trial has concluded in Austria of Josef Fritzl, who was sentenced to life imprisonment at a psychiatric institution after being found guilty of locking his daughter in a cellar for 24 years, raping her, and murdering one of the seven children he fathered. He was also convicted of incest and enslavement.

Here is a day-by-day account of the court proceedings, summarising the key evidence and events.



The jury was unanimous in finding Fritzl guilty of all charges - including rape, incest, imprisonment, and murdering through neglect one of the children that was born in the cellar where he kept his daughter, E. After the closing statements, Fritzl said he regretted what he had done with all his heart. His lawyer said his client had changed his mind after hearing E's harrowing videotape testimony.

Key moments:

Fritzl returned to court to hear the closing statements in his trial. He expressed his regret to the jury, saying: "I regret from the bottom of my heart what I've done to my family."

Josef Fritzl in court (19/03/09)
Fritzl showed no obvious emotion at the verdict

"Unfortunately I cannot undo what I did. I can only try to limit the damage done as best as I can," he said.

The state prosecutor, Christiane Burkheiser, called for a life sentence to be handed down, saying the remorse shown by Fritzl was false.

"Don't believe him, he's shown his true face in trying to exploit people's gullibility," she told the jury.

Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolph Mayer, disputed the murder charge. He also confirmed that E had watched proceedings in court earlier this week.

"Extenuating circumstances must be taken into consideration. My client was responsible for his actions, but his personality has psychological abnormalities. He didn't choose to be the way he is," he said in his closing statement.

The jury deliberated for about four hours before returning to pronounce their verdict. They found Fritzl guilty on all charges and he was sentenced to life in a psychiatric institution.


Fritzl's lawyer said his client accepted the verdict and would not appeal

Fritzl accepted the verdict, which comes into effect immediately. He told the judge he would not appeal.

Mr Mayer said outside the court after the verdict: "I would say that the verdict was a logical consequence of a confession."

"Of course if you have 3,000 cases of rape and 24 years of being kept in a cellar, it is evident that there can only be a punishment or verdict like this one."



In a surprise development, Fritzl began the day's proceedings by reversing his not guilty pleas on the charges of murder, enslavement and rape. He has now pleaded guilty on all the charges against him. Later, a court psychiatrist recommended that he be sent to a secure mental facility, saying that he was at a high risk of re-offending if he was not treated. The case was then adjourned in preparation for final statements and sentencing. The judges retired to formulate questions on each of the charges to put to jurors ahead of their deliberations.

Key moments:

Soon after arriving in court - for the first time, without shielding his face - Fritzl changed his pleas.

The judge asked Fritzl how he felt after watching the hours of videotaped testimony from his daughter. In a low voice he replied: "I plead guilty."

Referring to the death soon after birth of his daughter's infant son, the judge said: "Your daughter told you the baby was suffering from breathing problems. You had time to get first aid." Fritzl said: "I was hoping the little one would survive but I should have done something. I don't know why I didn't help. I just lost sight [of the issue]." He then said he was "sorry".


Psychiatrist Dr Heidi Kastner speaks to the BBC's Newsnight programme

Later, outside the courtroom, Fritzl's lawyer said he was "very very surprised" by his client's change of heart, but that hearing his daughter's testimony on Tuesday had profoundly affected him.

The court also heard psychiatrist Dr Adelheid Kastner say there was a danger Fritzl would repeat his behaviour if he was left untreated, and she recommended that he be sent to a special prison facility for deranged criminals.

Describing the accused, she said Fritzl had an overwhelming need to dominate and control, which she said stemmed from his childhood. She said he was an unwanted, unloved child, intelligent, who had grown up determined to have somebody who belonged to him alone.

While he was emotionally deficient, he was "sane in the legal sense of the word" and knew that what he was doing was wrong, she added.



The court in St Poelten watched further video testimony from Fritzl's daughter, E. It also heard from her brother and a neo-natal specialist, who gave evidence in connection with the death of the infant who Fritzl is accused of murdering by neglect. Neither the public nor the media were allowed into the courtroom during proceedings. However, Fritzl was photographed for the first time since the trial began while being led into the court.

Key moments:

The second day of this trial began very much like the first. As Fritzl was led into court, he kept his face covered with a blue folder for a second consecutive day in a bid to hide from the cameras. Once again, Austrian journalists bombarded him with questions trying to penetrate his wall of silence.

Earlier, Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, revealed that he had asked his client why he had covered his face and would not answer the reporters' questions. Mr Fritzl had explained that he was "simply ashamed", he said.

However, as Fritzl was being led back into court after the lunch recess, he allowed his face to be photographed for the first time since the start of the trial.

Josef Fritzl in court (17/03/09)
Fritzl was glimpsed before covering his face with a blue ringbinder

Inside the courtroom, the jury were expected to finish watching the pre-recorded video testimony of E, as well as video evidence given by one of her brothers. Fritzl watched the recordings "very carefully and very attentively and provided answers to questions", court officials said.

A neo-natal specialist also gave evidence in connection with one of the seven children Fritzl fathered with E, a twin boy who died shortly after birth in 1996. Prosecutors say the infant may have survived if he had received proper medical care and accuse Fritzl of murder by neglect, a charge he denies.

At an afternoon news conference next to the courthouse, court spokesman Franz Cutka predicted that the verdict would come earlier than had been expected. "The final pleas could be made on Thursday morning and that means we could expect to have a verdict on Thursday afternoon," he said.



On the first day of his trial in the town of St Poelten, west of Vienna, Fritzl appeared before the world's press for the first time, hiding his face behind a ring-binder. He pleaded guilty to rape, incest, coercion and deprivation of liberty. But he denied enslaving his daughter and murdering one of the babies who died shortly after birth. During the proceedings - which were not open to the public - officials played a video interview with his daughter, E.

Key moments:

Fritzl entered the courtroom holding a blue folder over his face to hide from the cameras. After sitting down, still covering his face, he was asked questions by journalists. One asked if he felt he would get a fair trial. There was no response.

After the trial began, Fritzl pleaded guilty to incest, coercion and some of the charges of sexual abuse. But he said he was not guilty of murder or enslavement, a charge recently introduced to combat human trafficking.


There were extraordinary scenes at the start of Josef Fritzl's trial

In her opening remarks, the state prosecutor painted a dramatic picture of life in the dark, damp cellar. Christiane Burkheiser alleged that Fritzl had not spoken to E for the first years of her captivity, descending to the cellar only to rape her before returning upstairs. Fritzl had treated E like his own property, the prosecutor added.

For the defence, Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, appealed to the jury to see his client as a human being and not a monster. Fritzl was asked a number of questions about his life and his work experience by the judge. Then she decided to close the court to the public because of the sensitive nature of the evidence.

A pre-recorded video testimony of E was later played to the jury. A court spokesman declined to give any details of what it included. But it was reportedly paused while questions were put to the defendant.

At a press conference later in the day, dozens of journalists hoped for more details of the evidence presented. But they were disappointed as court spokesman Franz Cutka said the entire proceedings would remain secret.

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