Fritzl trial begins in Austria

The Dungeon Dad, photo courtesy of smh.com
The Dungeon Dad, photo courtesy of smh.com

By Domenica Goduto

The trial of Josef Fritzl, the man who imprisoned his daughter for 24 years in a basement under the family home and fathered 7 children with her, has begun today in Austria.

Fritzl, escorted by six policemen and with his face shielded by a blue folder, declined to speak to journalists as he arrived at the courthouse in St. Poelten, west of Vienna, this morning.

The 73-year-old is charged with murder following the death of one of his secret children, who prosecutors claim might have survived if taken to a doctor.  Other charges include rape, incest, coercion, false imprisonment and enslavement.

Much of the evidence is based upon the testimony of Fritzl’s daughter Elizabeth, which will be delivered via videos shown behind closed doors to a eight-member jury.

An estimated 200 journalists are in the town to cover the event, but less than 100 are permitted within the courtroom.  Judges requested  that photographers and camera crews leave the room shortly after the trial commenced.

Fritzl’s case shocked the world when the facts emerged last April.  The apparently respectable husband and father was revealed to have a second life, keeping his daughter Elizabeth and a number of their children in a cellar dungeon beneath the home in Amstetten, Lower Austria, where he lived with his wife Rosemarie.

Elizabeth had supposedly run away from home, but was in fact kept hidden by her father for the majority of her life.  The situation only came to light when one of the children kept underground was taken to hospital.