Page last updated at 20:52 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 21:52 UK

Austrian 'hid daughter in cellar'

The house where the man and his daughter lived

A 73-year-old Austrian is under arrest on suspicion of hiding his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and fathering seven children with her, police say.

The existence of the woman, believed missing since 1984 and now 42, emerged after a teenager said to be her daughter was taken to hospital.

Both the woman and teenage girl are receiving medical treatment and the other children are in care.

A police investigation in Amstetten, Lower Austria Province, is continuing.

The suspect, named only as Josef F, was arrested on suspicion of incest and keeping his daughter in captivity. He has not responded to the charges against him, police say.

One of the children the man allegedly fathered died in infancy, police believe.

Three children, including the 19-year-old who was taken to hospital, were allegedly kept in the cellar with their mother while the other three reportedly grew up with their grandparents.

DNA tests will be taken to establish whether Josef F was indeed their father.

Placed in care

The alleged crimes came to light after the teenager, named as Kerstin F, was dropped off at the Amstetten hospital last weekend.

Police secure evidence in the backyard of the suspect's house in Amstetten
Elisabeth reappeared at home after disappearing 24 years ago
Six children she says are hers have been found and placed in care
One of the children, aged 19, is seriously ill in hospital
Elisabeth's father Josef, 73, has been arrested on suspicion of incest and abduction

Finding Kerstin seriously ill, doctors appealed for her mother, who at that time was assumed to be missing, to come forward to provide more details about her medical history.

Josef F allegedly then released the mother and two other children from the cellar, telling his wife Rosemarie that she had chosen to return home, police say.

It was not immediately clear how police were alerted.

The mother, named as Elisabeth F, has been receiving medical and psychological treatment since being discovered.

She appeared "greatly disturbed" psychologically during questioning and agreed to talk only after authorities assured her that she would no longer have to have contact with her father, and that her children would be taken care of, police added.

The six children are three boys and three girls aged between five and 20.

Police spokesman Franz Polzer told reporters they were now all in "psychological care in a secure institution in a clinic here in this area".

"They are being cared for individually - those between 12 and 16 years of age who grew up with their grandparents, and two boys who, when they came out yesterday with their mother, saw the daylight for the first time in their lives," he said.

Police said three of the children were registered with authorities and lived with the grandparents.

According to police, Josef F and wife Rosemarie had told authorities the three had been abandoned at birth outside their home - in 1993, 1994 and 1997 - each time, the couple claimed, with a note from Elisabeth saying she could not care for the babies herself.

'Dead baby burnt'

The police issued a statement giving details of the alleged abuses Elisabeth recounted to them.

BBC map

She said she had been sexually abused by her father since the age of 11.

Josef allegedly lured her into the cellar of their house in Amstetten on 28 August 1984, drugging and handcuffing her before locking her up.

It was assumed she had disappeared voluntarily when her parents received a letter from her asking them not to search for her.

"Abused continuously during the 24-year-long imprisonment", Elisabeth bore six children while a seventh, one of a set of twins, died soon after birth.

The dead baby was allegedly taken out of the cellar and burnt by Josef.

Elisabeth said Josef had provided her and three of her children, who were locked up along with her, with clothing and food.

His wife Rosemarie had allegedly not been aware of what was going on.

The discovery of another Austrian woman, who was held captive in a cellar by an abductor for more than eight years, gripped the country in 2006.

Natascha Kampusch finally escaped from her kidnapper, 44-year-old Wolfgang Priklopil, who killed himself shortly afterwards.

Ms Kampusch was abducted at the age of 10 in 1998 and held in a small, windowless cellar beneath Priklopil's garage in the commuter town of Strasshof, near Vienna.

Timeline: Austrian cellar case
27 Apr 08 |  Europe
Country profile: Austria
05 Mar 08 |  Country profiles

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