Austria

Man holds daughter captive under his home for 24 years

August 29, 1984
Amstetten, Austria
Elisabeth Fritzl is held captive by her father who keeps her hidden in an underground dungeon and repeatedly rapes her for 24 years

Elisabeth was tricked by her father Josef into their basement when he claimed he needed help with installing a door. As she held it to the frame, Josef used a cloth with ether to incapacitate and imprison her in an 18 sq m (59 sq ft) room with a height of 1.79 m (5’8″). When Elisabeth’s mother, Rosemarie, grew concerned at her daughter’s disappearance, Josef forced Elisabeth to write letters which he mailed from another city to give the illusion that she had run away.

Over the next 24 years, he would (by his own admission) rape Elisabeth repeatedly which led to the births of 7 children. One of the children, Michael, died 3 days after his birth of respiratory problems. His body was then incinerated by Josef on his property. Three of the surviving children, Lisa, Monika, and Alexander, were taken from the dungeon and raised by Josef and his wife. Josef claimed to Rosemarie and social services that he had found the children, “very plausibly” explained how he found them, and said he wished to adopt them. Social workers visited the family regularly but their suspicions were never aroused to anything out of the ordinary.

During their years of captivity, Josef would bring supplies, such as food, for his prisoners. He provided them with a hot plate for cooking, a refrigerator, a television, a radio, an a VCR. If he grew angry at them, he would cut off their electricity and supplies for days. He also made Elisabeth to watch pornographic movies with him and humiliate her by forcing her to reenact scenes with him in front of her children.

On April 18, 2008, the eldest child Kerstin (19 at that time) fell unconscious. Elizabeth pleaded to allow Kerstin to be taken to the hospital, and Josef eventually agreed. Elizabeth helped him take Kerstin out of the dungeon and saw the outside world for the first time in 24 years. Josef forced Elisabeth back into the cell and had Kerstin taken to the hospital on an ambulance where she was found to be suffering from kidney failure. At the hospital, Josef presented doctors with a note he claimed was from Kerstin’s mother. Finding the situation puzzling, hospital staff contacted the police.

On April 26, Elisabeth begged her father to allow her to visit Kerstin, which he allowed. Police were alerted to their presence by a doctor, and the 2 were detained. Elisabeth refused to provide details until she was promised she’d never have to see Josef again. She then spent 2 hours going over the events she suffered over the previous 24 years. Josef was arrested and the remaining children, Stefan (18) and Felix (5) were rescued during this time.

Originally, Josef tried to contest his charges during trial. However, Elisabeth attended court in disguise while her video taped testimony was being played, and Josef recognized her through the disguise. He visibly paled and broke down, and the following day he changed his pleas to guilty on all counts. He was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 15 years and stated he accepted his sentence and would not try to appeal. He is currently in a section of his prison dedicated to the criminally insane.

Horrific history from today:
1994: Family murdered by man obsessed with oldest daughter (2017)
2007: Gay man raped, murdered girl to experience sex with a woman (2017)
1987: 32 members of evangelical baptist church found dead following mass murder-suicide (2018)

Horror-related anniversaries:
Today in Horror History: August 29

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