Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Cellar father faces murder charge

Josef Fritzl
Fritzl has been in custody since the case came to light in April

The Austrian father who allegedly imprisoned and abused his daughter for 24 years has been charged with murdering one of their seven children.

Austrian prosecutors say the charges against Joseph Fritzl carry a prison sentence of 10 years to life.

Mr Fritzl is also charged with slavery and rape. If found guilty, he faces 20 years in jail on those charges.

He has been in custody since the case came to light in April and a trial is expected to begin early next year.

Mr Fritzl fathered seven children with his daughter Elisabeth, now aged 42, in a cellar at his home in Amstetten, west of Vienna.

Three of them grew up in the cellar - without ever seeing daylight - while three others were brought up by Mr Fritzl's wife.


Now prosecutors have levelled charges at him over the death of the seventh child, a baby born in the underground chamber.

Allegedly 'humiliated' by mother, leaving deep psychological scars
Convicted of rape in 1967; criminal record cleared after 15 years
Has said he locked up Elisabeth to protect her, and was unhappy with her social life
Began constructing cellar in 1981 or 1982
Qualified electrician, installed special locks on cellar doors

Mr Fritzl is alleged to have refused to call for medical help after the baby was born, despite knowing the child could die.

"Despite recognising the baby's life-threatening situation, he deliberately decided not to intervene," prosecutors said in the charge sheet against Mr Fritzl.

He has told police that he took the body of the child and incinerated it in a furnace.

Under Austrian law the act of not seeking medical attention for the newborn child is classified as murder.

Mr Fritzl, 73, was declared mentally fit to stand trial last month. His lawyer has refused to comment on the charges against his client.

'Born to rape'

Elisabeth Fritzl disappeared in August 1984, when, police say, her father lured her downstairs, drugged her and handcuffed her before locking her up.

Between 1993 and 1997 three children were found outside the Fritzl's home in Amstetten, west of Vienna.

All three were taken in and either adopted or fostered by Rosemarie Fritzl, who believed her daughter was living elsewhere but was unable to care for her young children.

Mr Fritzl had told his wife - and social services - that Elisabeth had run away to join a sect. Local authorities have said they found no discrepancies in his explanations for how the three children came to be with the Fritzls.

The truth of the case first came to light in April after 19-year-old Kerstin, one of the children fathered by Mr Fritzl, became seriously ill and was taken to hospital.

DNA tests have shown Mr Fritzl - who has allegedly told a psychiatrist he was "born to rape" - is the father of Elisabeth's surviving children.

Elisabeth, her children and her mother have been undergoing psychiatric treatment and are thought to be at a secret location learning to resume a normal existence.

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