Austrian Incest Father Going 'Stir Crazy' in Jail

Children imprisoned by "monster of Austria" begin forays into the world.


July 11, 2008— -- The Austrian man who imprisoned his own daughter for 24 years in a windowless dungeon has become so tired of being cooped up in his jail cell that he is venturing out for 30 minutes each day — protected from other inmates by prison guards.

Josef Fritzl, 73, has spent two-and-a-half months in an Austrian jail cell since his arrest last April. He's awaiting trial, but a trial date has not been set yet.

Fritzl, fearing an attack by other prisoners, has spent most of that time watching television in the cell he shares with a man accused of a shooting incident.

But as the Daily Telegraph newspaper of London reported, Fritzl is becoming "stir crazy." The man known as the monster of Austria has begun demanding in recent weeks his 30-minute daily exercise walk outside of his cell.

He takes those walks while protected from other inmates by a guard of prison officers.

"That's a basic right guaranteed to any prisoner by Austrian law," Dr. Gerhard Sedlacek, the prosecution spokesman told ABC News.

Fritzl admitted to Austrian law enforcement authorities in April that he forced his daughter Elisabeth, now 42, to live in a small, dark cellar dungeon in Amstetten, Austria, where he fathered her seven children before he was caught by police. One infant had died shortly after it was born.

While Fritzl adjusts to prison life, his children are adjusting to the sunlight they never saw and the freedom that they never knew.

And Elisabeth has been questioned by prosecutors for the first time since her release from the dungeon beneath her family home.

Sedlacek said Elisabeth's interview session was videotaped and transmitted to another room, where Fritzl's defense lawyer was watching. Fritzl declined to be present for the interrogation.

The interview was conducted by videolink because Elisabeth only began to talk about her ordeal after police assured her she would never have to see her father again. The videotaped testimony will allow her to avoid having to repeat her story in court, officials said.

During her 24 years underground, several of them chained so she couldn't escape, Elisabeth bore seven children to her father.

Three of their children were allowed to live upstairs in the care of their grandmother. Three other surviving children were forced to share the underground life with their mother, never seeing daylight or enjoying fresh air.

All six surviving children are now living with their mother and their grandmother at an apartment that is protected by police and aided by a team of specialists helping them to recover from their ordeal.

The three children who never saw sunlight, clouds or other kids until freed from Fritzl's basement dungeon have begun to make forays into the world and the results have been encouraging.

Judge Andrea Humer, who will preside over Fritzl's incest-imprisonment trial, said medical experts have pronounced the victims in "relatively good health" considering their ordeal.

A 15-year-old girl even attended a summer camp organized by firefighters last weekend, public broadcaster ORF said. Since the Fritzl name is now notorious in Austria, the girl used a fake name as she mixed freely and romped with 4,000 other children for four days.

Other family members also have ventured out — always in disguise — for brief trips for events like swimming, the Austrian newspaper Kurier said.

"Fortunately, everything is going very well," said Christoph Herbst, a lawyer representing the victims. He said they were spending some time each day trying to answer the hundreds of letters sent by well-wishers from around the world.

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