Joseph Fritzl – 1984

By | January 27, 2017

“Born to rape”


A photograph issued by the police department at the time of Joseph Fritzl’s arrest


Electrical engineer, Josef Fritzl ,was no ordinary father. He had been born an only child in Amstetten, Austria on 9 April 1935. In 1956 he married 17-year-old Rosemarie. In September 1967 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for rape. When his daughter Elisabeth was just 11 years old he raped her for the first time.

Five years later, when the girl was 16, she had tried to run away from home but he had foiled her plan. In the summer of 1984 she was 18 and again planning an escape, to work as a waitress in Linz. She liked to go out and visit clubs and flirt with boys. Her father was a strict disciplinarian — how strict she could have no idea. One day he told Elizabeth that he needed her help to carry a door down to the basement. Thus began a terror that would last 8,516 days —almost 25 years. Once in the basement, Fritzl handcuffed and drugged the terrified girl, attached her to a 1.5-m (5-ft) long dog lead and kept her locked in there until 2004.

In 1978 Fritzl had begun excavation (supposedly for a nuclear shelter) under his modest but comfortable three-storey home in Amstetten. He created a cellar beyond the basement that was protected by a steel and concrete door that weighed a third of a ton. In that cellar Elisabeth lived and became pregnant by her father eight times. As the brood increased, the prison also increased in size. Fritzl made his daughter carry out the work.

Her reward was that he would rape her in one of the new rooms rather than in front of their children. If anyone asked what had become of Elisabeth, Fritzl would say that she had run off to join a cult. Fritz used his skill to install electronic locks on each of the rooms’ doors, and locked the main door with a remote code. The basement contained a television, video, fridge, freezer, washing machine, hotplates and cramped bathroom facilities. It was also soundproofed.

In 1984 Elisabeth miscarried a baby in the tenth week. In 1988 she gave birth to Kerstin. Stefan followed in 1990 and Lisa in August 1992. Fritz and Rosemarie adopted Lisa after Elisabeth supposedly gave her up on 19 May 1993. On 26 February 1994 Monika was born. Elisabeth next gave birth to twins, Alexander and Michael, in 1996 but Michael died three days later under mysterious circumstances.

Fritzl cremated him in the household furnace, and he and Rosemarie raised Alexander upstairs. His last incestuous child was Felix born in December 2002. The torment came to an end on 19 April 2008 when Kerstin, now 19, fell ill and had to be taken to the Mostviertel-Amstetten State Hospital. A week later, Elisabeth, aged 42, but grey-haired, toothless and looking 20 years older left the cellar for the first time since 1984. The police were called and Elisabeth told all.


40 Ybbsstrasse, Amstetten, Austria


Tuesday 28 August 1984


On 14 November 2008 Fritzl was charged with the murder of his son Michael. His trial opened at Sankt Polten, Austria on 16 March 2009. At first Fritzl pleaded guilty to four of six charges he faced but after he heard daughter Elisabeth’s testimony he changed his plea to guilty on all charges. He was jailed for life on 19 March 2009. His cellar is to be filled in with concrete to stop it becoming a tourist attraction.


The cellar was 4.5 m x 4.5 m (15 ft x 15 ft) and the ceiling was 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in) high. As well as imprisoning his daughter and grandchildren, Fritzl also locked his mother away on the top floor of his house from 1959-1980.

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