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Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Austrian Fritzl sentenced to life

Josef Fritzl
Fritzl's trial lasted four days

Austrian Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter in a cellar and fathered her seven children, has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Fritzl, 73, was found guilty of all charges against him, including rape, incest, murder and enslavement.

He showed no obvious emotion at the verdict, telling the court that he accepted it and would not appeal.

The court ordered that Fritzl should serve his life sentence in a secure psychiatric facility.

The judge said he could speak to his lawyer but he shook his head. Then he was led out of court with an impassive face.

Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said outside the court after the verdict: "I would say that the verdict was a logical consequence of a confession.

"Of course if you have 3,000 cases of rape and 24 years of being kept in a cellar, it is evident that there can only be a punishment or verdict like this one."

Court officials describe the details of Fritzl's life sentence

The life sentence was handed down for the murder by neglect of one of the children, who died soon after birth.

The jury unanimously accepted prosecutors' arguments that the child could have survived if it had received medical care denied by Fritzl.

The defendant first denied murder and enslavement but changed his plea to guilty after seeing testimony from his daughter.

The verdict is final and irreversible, as neither the defence nor the prosecution is contesting it.

Co-ordination centre

The BBC's Bethany Bell at the court says there has been a huge amount of media interest in the trial, and its twists and turns have been enormous.

At the time of the first details of this case, no-one could grasp the extent of this man's crimes, she says, and Austria still has to come to terms with it.

Court officials said Fritzl would initially return to St Poelten jail, where he has been held in custody. Justice Ministry spokeswoman Katharina Swoboda told AFP news agency that he would remain there in the coming weeks.

I regret from the bottom of my heart what I've done to my family
Josef Fritzl


The prison's deputy warden, Erich Huber-Guensthofer, said he would be kept under suicide watch.

He will then be sent to a co-ordination centre, where it will be determined how dangerous he is and whether he is able to undergo therapy, before going on to the psychiatric facility.

He could in theory be released from the facility if he is deemed to be cured of his illness and would serve the remainder of his sentence in a normal prison.

In this case he will be eligible for release after 15 years.

Court spokesman Franz Cutka said Fritzl's daughter could also bring a civil case against her father, adding that there was no limit to the damages she could request.

Regrets

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

FRITZL'S CRIMES
Murder by neglect
Enslavement
Deprivation of liberty
Rape
Incest
Coercion

The daughter and three of the children were kept captive in the cellar until the case came to light in April last year, when one of them 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 have been recovering from their ordeal in a psychiatric clinic and at a secret location.

Addressing the jury before the verdict, 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.

Fritzl family tree


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