Page last updated at 20:09 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fritzl's face is caught on camera

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

The face of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian charged with crimes against children he kept and abused in a cellar, has been caught on camera at his trial.

The accused, whose lawyer said he had been "ashamed" to show his face, had been covering himself with a folder since the trial began on Monday.

A verdict for Mr Fritzl, who has access to a psychiatrist as an anti-suicide precaution, is due on Thursday.

Jurors have been watching hours of videotaped testimony from his children.

The final pleas could be made on Thursday morning and that means we could expect to have a verdict on Thursday afternoon
Court spokesman Franz Cutka

Mr Fritzl has pleaded guilty to incest and "partially" guilty to rape but not guilty to enslavement or murder at the trial in the town of St Poelten.

He is said to be watching the recordings "attentively" at the trial, which is closed to the press and public until Wednesday in order to protect the identity of victims.

The court also heard expert testimony on infant care on Tuesday.

One of the charges against Mr Fritzl is that he murdered his own newborn baby boy by failing to provide him with proper medical care.

Expert testimony

"The final pleas could be made on Thursday morning and that means we could expect to have a verdict on Thursday afternoon," said court spokesman Franz Cutka.

Murder - not guilty plea
Enslavement - not guilty plea
Deprivation of liberty - guilty plea
Rape - partially guilty plea*
Incest - guilty plea
Coercion - guilty plea

*Understood to mean he is contesting the wording of the charges

The media and public were admitted on Monday at the opening of the trial but are being barred from the courtroom while a daughter and son's testimony is played.

A psychiatric expert is expected to testify on Wednesday and two reports by technical experts regarding the cellar in which the defendant locked his daughter for 24 years will also be read out to the court.

Mr Fritzl, his lawyer and the prosecution all agreed to the reading of the experts' opinion rather than their appearance at the trial, Mr Cutka said.

No details are being given of the videotaped testimony or Mr Fritzl's possible responses to it.

"The defendant was questioned about the issues that came up in the testimonies, and he gave his views," the court spokesman told a news conference.

"The defendant followed the recorded testimony attentively."

Prison official Erich Huber-Guensthofer confirmed that a psychiatrist had been caring for Mr Fritzl before and during the trial to ensure he did not attempt suicide.

"He is accompanying him during the trial and is available for talks during trial breaks and after the day's proceedings," he said.

Mystery visit

Mr Fritzl is alleged in 1984 to have lured his daughter into a cellar with windowless soundproofed chambers beneath their house, to have imprisoned her there and raped her repeatedly over a number of years.

TV teams stand opposite the court in St Poelten, 17 March
A bank of TV cameras faces the courthouse in St Poelten

The daughter and three of her seven children fathered by Mr Fritzl were kept captive in the cellar until the case came to light in April last year, when one of the children became seriously ill and was taken to hospital.

Mr Fritzl is accused of murdering one of the newborn twin boys his daughter gave birth to in 1996, having failed to arrange medical care for the ailing infant.

Some legal experts have said it may be hard to prove the murder charge but the charge of enslavement carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, and some of the other charges carry a sentence of up to 15 years.

Details have emerged of a bizarre visit that Mr Fritzl received recently in jail by a man claiming to be an estate agent.

The visit was cut short after officials realised the man was trying to pursue "very personal" business with Mr Fritzl, Mr Huber-Guensthofer said, without elaborating.

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