Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Timeline: Austrian cellar case

A timeline of events in the case of Josef Fritzl, 73, who has been convicted of imprisoning and raping his daughter in a cellar in Amstetten, Austria, for 24 years, during which time she bore seven of his children.

The events included are based on Austrian police statements and actual court proceedings.

28 August 1984

Mr Fritzl lures his daughter, E, into the cellar of their house, drugging and handcuffing her before locking her up. E later tells investigators she was sexually abused by her father even before he incarcerated her.

Date unknown

Amstetten hospital
Josef Fritzl's double life unravelled after a daughter was taken to this hospital
Mr Fritzl and his wife receive a letter in E's handwriting saying they should not try to look for her. Mrs Fritzl is unaware of the truth, E later tells police.

1988-89 (approximately)

The first of seven reported children, a daughter, is secretly born (exact date unknown) and raised in the cellar. Another child, a boy, is then born.


A baby is discovered outside the family home along with a letter purportedly from E, saying she cannot care for it. It is taken in by Mr Fritzl and his wife. A second infant appears in 1994. Both are either fostered or adopted, and are raised by their grandparents.


Twins are born to E but one dies shortly after birth. The body is allegedly taken away and disposed of in an incinerator by Mr Fritzl.


A third infant appears at the house, and is taken in, like the previous two, to be raised by grandparents.


According to media reports Mr Fritzl goes to Thailand for four weeks, one of several such trips. Officials have said the hidden family may have been left with food stores to see them through such absences.


A letter arrives from E to say she had another baby in December 2002. This child, a boy, is believed to have been brought up in the cellar along with his older sister and brother.

Fritzl family tree

Saturday 19 April 2008

Police issue an appeal to a missing person - E - to contact them about her daughter, who has been admitted to hospital in Amstetten with a serious illness, aged 19.

The house in Amstetten where the alleged abuses took place
The alleged abuses took place at this house in Amstetten

Mr Fritzl had told hospital staff her mother was unable and unwilling to look after the sick girl, and had left her in front of his house.

19-26 April

At some point during the week, according to the police statement, Mr Fritzl releases E and the two other children from the cellar, telling his wife that E has chosen to return home.

Saturday 26 April

Police pick up Mr Fritzl and E near the Amstetten hospital where their daughter is being treated. E's children are found at the house.

Sunday 27 April

Police announce the arrest of Mr Fritzl on suspicion of incest and abduction. All the children are placed in care and E is given medical and psychological treatment. Mr Fritzl gives police the code to unlock a hidden door to a basement living space made up of a network of tiny windowless chambers.

All the children, except the sick eldest daughter, meet for the first time, and E is reunited with her mother.

Monday 28 April

Mr Fritzl confesses to imprisoning E in a cellar for 24 years and fathering her seven children. He confirms to investigators that one of their children died in infancy and that he had taken the dead body and thrown it into an incinerator.

Tuesday 29 April

Police announce that DNA tests confirm that Mr Fritzl is the father of E's children.

As the sick girl remains in hospital, in a serious but stable condition, Mr Fritzl appears before a magistrate and is remanded in custody.

Officials report an "astonishing" reunion between E, now 42, and two of the three children who had lived with her in the cellar - the 18- and five-year-old brothers - with her other children.

News conference
Details have been given at packed news conferences

Later in the day hundreds of people in Amstetten take part in a candle-lit gathering - organised by a local convent school - to express their solidarity and outrage.

Wednesday 30 April

Police say Mr Fritzl is refusing to answer any questions in the wake of his initial signed confession.

His daughter and the children are being looked after together in the isolated wing of a medical clinic, under the 24-hour supervision of a multi-disciplinary care team.

Those held captive are getting used to space, light and especially the different food, officials say. An improvised birthday party has been held for the 12-year-old.

Austria's chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, vows to protect the country's image with a campaign abroad, saying: "We won't allow the whole country to be held hostage by one man."

Wednesday 15 October

Prosecutors declare that Mr Fritzl is mentally fit to stand trial.

The authorities said a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of the 73-year-old showed that he was lucid enough to be tried, even though it said he suffered from a "profound personality disorder".

Thursday 13 November

Josef Fritzl is formally charged with murdering one of the seven children that he and E had together.

The child is said to have died in the cellar shortly after birth. Prosecutors allege that the boy was murdered by neglect, when Mr Fritzl failed to seek medical attention that might have saved his life.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Prosecutors say Mr Fritzl will go on trial on 16 March.

Monday 16 March 2009

Mr Fritzl goes on trial at the court in St Poelten, amid a media frenzy. He pleads guilty to rape and incest but not guilty to murder or enslavement.

The doors of the court are then closed to the press and public.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Josef Fritzl changed his pleas to guilty on all charges, including rape, incest, murder and enslavement.

He initially denied two of the charges, including murdering one of the children soon after his birth.

Asked by the judge at the trial in St Poelten, west of Vienna, what had caused him to change his plea, he replied: "My daughter's videotaped testimony," the AFP news agency reported. "I'm sorry," he added.

Thursday 19 March 2009

The jury found Fritzl guilty on all charges, including the murder of his newborn - the most serious charge.

He was sentenced to the maximum life in jail, to be served in a secure mental institution.

Earlier in the proceedings, Fritzl apologised for his crimes, saying: "I regret from the bottom of my heart what I've done to my family… Unfortunately I cannot undo what I did. I can only try to limit the damage done as best as I can."

But prosecutors said his remarks did not seem serious and demanded that he be jailed for life.

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