Austria Reacts With Shock and Disbelief

Crime of man who raped and imprisoned daughter for years captivates nation.

ByABC News
April 29, 2008, 12:33 PM

PASSAU, Germany, April 29, 2008 — -- The woman who was held captive in her father's basement for 24 years has been reunited with five of her children and her mother in a meeting that astonished hospital staff for the ease with which they got along.

Law enforcement authorities confirmed today that DNA test results prove Josef Fritzl, 73, to be the father of the six surviving children born to his daughter Elisabeth during her imprisonment in the Austrian town of Amstetten.

The man dubbed a "monster" by Austrian press is due to appear before a judge today. He's facing several more days of questioning as "there are many, many questions that remain unanswered," according to prosecutors investigating the case.

"Our top priority is to shed some light into the circumstances that made it possible for him to hide his crimes for so long," Gerhard Sedlacek, the spokesman for the prosecution, told ABC News.

Elizabeth Fritzl was reunited Sunday with her mother and the three children whom Fritzl allowed to live upstairs with him. Two of the children who were confined to the basement were also present. Another child, 19-year-old Kerstin, remains in a medically induced coma at another facility, where she is being treated for a life-threatening illness.

Fritzl had allowed three of the children to live aboveground with him, and reportedly told his wife and authorities that his daughter had run away, but sent him the children because she couldn't care for them.

Despite the decades of abuse and separation, the three generations had a smooth reunion, officials said.

"It astonished us how easy it was for the children to come together, and how easy it was for Elisabeth and her mother to come together. We're trying to keep them together for as long as possible," Dr. Berthold Kepplinger said.

While the family may be coping, this Alpine country is struggling to come to terms with what one Austrian paper called "the worst crime of all time."

What has rattled the country even more is that this is the third such incident in the last two years.