Incest Dad Left Children to Go on Vacation

Austria reels as more gruesome details emerge in abuse case.


PASSAU, Germany, April 30, 2008 — -- While crime scene investigators are continuing their inquiries, more details about the man who held his daughter and children captive in Austria are coming to light.

Most upsetting to many Austrians may be a home video obtained by German TV station n-tv.

It shows the man who confessed to imprisoning, raping and impregnating his daughter, Elisabeth, for 24 years on a "boys holiday" in Thailand in 1998, as she and her children suffered in a secret dungeon in the family home thousands of miles away.

Images show a smiling Josef Fritzl posing for the camera; Fritzl at the bazaar in Pataya, buying a dress for "his lover," as a friend remembers him saying at the time; Fritzl and his friend taking an elephant ride; Fritzl at a dinner buffet helping himself to food; Fritzl relaxing at the beach having a massage -- seemingly without a care in the world. They are all pictures of a happy man.

The same TV station also interviewed an Austrian journalist who has been working on the Fritzls' ''missing daughter story'' a couple of years ago, long before this horrible crime was discovered.

Andrea Kramer, the journalist, told n-tv that Fritzl appeared as a broken, old man, grieving because his daughter had run away from home when she was 18 to join a religious cult.

"No way could I ever imagine him the evil he turned out to be," Kramer told n-tv. "It seems impossible."

Asked how it was possible for Fritzl to keep his true face under wraps for so long, Franz Polzer, head of Lower Austrian Bureau of Criminal Affairs, told Austrian TV ORF in an interview Tuesday night, "He had no scruples to use every possible means to deceive his family, his wife, his relatives and everybody around him to cover up his crime. He was a very cunning man. He created a perfectly constructed framework of lies."

Polzer also explained that police in Austria were still looking for witnesses who could help shed some light into the dark chapter. He appealed publicly to "everybody who can help police to come forward."

Meanwhile, local TV stations are reporting that a former tenant, who had lived above the cellar where Elisabeth and her children were imprisoned, said he heard strange noises in the night and saw Fritzl ferrying wheelbarrows of food under the cover of darkness.

Alfred Dubanovsky, 42, who lived in the building for 12 years, said Fritzl spent his days in the cellar but banned anyone from going near it.

"It never occurred to me anything about his behavior was unusual," he told reporters. "I wish to God that I could turn back the clock. The signs were all there, but it was impossible for me to recognize them. Who would ever believe something so terrible was going on right under my feet? How was it possible to happen in our midst?"

Those are questions many people of Amstetten, a small town with 22,000 inhabitants, are still struggling to come to terms with.

On Tuesday night, about 400 people took part in a candlelight vigil in support of the family in the town square.

"The outside world seems to think Amstetten is a terrible town and that people in the community do not care for one another. We want to show this is not true," organizer Elisabeth Anderson told reporters.

"Who is Josef Fritzl?" state broadcaster ORF asked today in an online article. "All of Austria is asking this question, if not the entire world."

Fritzl, dubbed "monster" by Austrian media, is being held at a prison in St. Poelten, near Amstetten. He has seen lawyer Rudolf Mayer, who accepted to defend him in the trial.

Mayer said his client is under psychiatric care and said during an interview with The Associated Press, "Fritzl is really hit by this. He is very serious, but he is emotionally broken."

Those observations, however, have been contradicted by a police source quoted by Austrian daily Der Standard who said, "He is showing no sign of regret whatsoever. He comes across as very arrogant, as if he thinks he has done nothing wrong."

Prosecutor Gerhard Sedlacek reportedly added that the man appeared "completely calm, completely without emotion" when he was formally placed in pretrial detention Tuesday.

The prosecutor also agreed with the police's Polzer who said today that it could take at least six months for authorities to conclude the investigation into what he calls "a unique case that has no precedent in Austrian history."

During a news conference today, clinic director Berthold Kepplinger of Landesklinkum Amstetten-Mostviertel told reporters that Elisabeth and her children, all in the psychiatric care of a team of specialists, are "doing well under the circumstances."

He said he did not expect their condition to change dramatically in the next couple of days.

Kepplinger also told the media that Elisabeth and her kids were living with Elisabeth's mother, Rosemarie, in a living area separate from other clinic patients so that the reunited family would be allowed privacy and protection from outsiders.

It was Kepplinger who told reporters Tuesday that Elisabeth and the kids, who had been confined with her in the cellar, had a reunion with Elisabeth's mother and some of her children who had been allowed to live above ground with their grandparents.

Though Fritzl reportedly told his wife and authorities that his daughter had run away, during the years he said she had sent three of her children because she couldn't care for them.

The doctor added, "The family members are enjoying talking to each other, and yesterday they even had a small birthday party with a proper birthday cake for Elisabeth's 12-year-old son, one of the children who grew up with his grandparents."

Kepplinger also said an 18-year-old young man, who grew up in confinement and had never seen the sun, could read and write "in a reduced form" and the children "were communicating in their own language."

Asked about the mother's health and mental condition, he declined to provide details but said, "It was definitely dreadful for her and for her children."

Kerstin, 19, one of the six surviving children and whose hospitalization triggered the family's discovery, was said to still be struggling for her life.

"She remains in a medically induced coma at the hospital in St. Poelten. She's still in need of the life-support system and her condition is still critical but stable," said Albert Reiter, the doctor in charge of her medical treatment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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