Page last updated at 21:49 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 22:49 UK

Fritzl's victims thank the public

A man reads a poster drawn by the Fritzl family at the main square in Amstetten, Austria

The family of an Austrian man who is accused of imprisoning and raping his daughter in a cellar for 24 years have released their first public message.

Joseph Fritzl's daughter, Elizabeth, five of her children and her mother Rosemarie, have hand-written a poster thanking people for their support.

Police say Mr Fritzl, 73, imprisoned and raped his daughter Elisabeth in the cellar in Amstetten in Lower Austria.

He has said he was driven by an addiction that "got out of control".

Wish for normality

Josef Fritzl fathered seven children with his daughter - one of whom died when very young, three of whom were kept imprisoned in his cellar, and three others who went on to live with Mr Fritzl as his adopted or fostered children.

The illustrated poster features outlines of the family members' hands with personal messages written inside.

It is on display in a shop window in their hometown of Amstetten.

The main message of the poster reads: "We, the whole family, would like to use this occasion to thank you all for your sympathy with our fate. Your compassion really helps us to cope with this difficult time and shows us that there are also good and honest people.

"We hope that a time will come for us when we can lead a normal life again."

Josef Fritzl
Fritzl has said he was driven by "an addiction"

In one message, Elisabeth's 18-year-old son, who was imprisoned in the cellar and had never seen daylight until his release in April, writes how he enjoys experiencing sun, fresh air and nature for the first time.

Austria's Kurier newspaper reports that people in Amstetten have been reading the poster with tears in their eyes.

Mr Fritzl's alleged crimes came to light when Elisabeth's eldest daughter Kerstin, 19, became seriously ill.

She was allowed out of the cellar and admitted to hospital in Amstetten - where she remains in an artificial coma.

Elisabeth and the other five of her children are now in care with the Austrian authorities, who are protecting their privacy at a psychiatric clinic.

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