Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Fritzl jury considers its verdict


Josef Fritzl walks into the courtroom

The jury in the trial of Austrian Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter in a cellar and fathered her seven children, has retired to consider its verdict.

Fritzl, 73, has admitted all the charges against him - including rape, incest, murder and enslavement.

Speaking to the jury, Fritzl said: "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," he said.

The former electrician could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

He originally denied enslavement and murder, but changed his pleas on Wednesday after seeing his daughter's taped testimony.

A court doctor has advised he be sent to a psychiatric facility.

Plea change

In court in St Poelten, prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said the jury must concentrate on the most serious charges against him - murder and enslavement.

She said Fritzl knew the baby who died in the cellar was in danger of dying and yet he did not seek help.

Murder by neglect
Deprivation of liberty

She said he treated his daughter as his property - raping, imprisoning and abusing her.

Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said his change of plea to guilty on Wednesday had been made in an emotional state.

He also confirmed that his client's daughter had been in court watching proceedings earlier this week.

Eva Plaz, the lawyer for Fritzl's daughter, told the jury they could either believe her client or Josef Fritzl.

She said Fritzl had always known he was guilty of the baby's death.

Fritzl's guilty pleas could be a mitigating factor, but only at the discretion of the judges and jury.

He could face life imprisonment for murder, 20 years for enslavement and up to 15 years on other charges.

Face uncovered

Dressed in a grey jacket and blue shirt and tie, Fritzl, who was ringed by police, walked to the courtroom on Thursday with his face uncovered, having concealed his face with a binder in front of the cameras for the first two days of his trial.

Fritzl's psychiatrist Dr Heidi Kastner speaks to the BBC's Newsnight programme

The Austrian imprisoned his daughter in a cellar under his house for 24 years and repeatedly raped her.

The daughter and three of the children fathered by 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.

In his surprise confession on Wednesday, Fritzl admitted murdering by neglect one of newborn twin boys his daughter gave birth to in 1996, having failed to arrange medical care for the ailing infant.

The other three children were raised in the family home by Fritzl and his wife, after he told people that his daughter had abandoned them and joined a sect.

The daughter and her six surviving children been recovering from their ordeal in a psychiatric clinic and at a secret location.

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