Australian 'Fritzl' charged with rape


IN A case which has been compared with those of Austrian rapist Josef Fritzl and Phillip Garrido in California, an Australian man has been accused of raping his daughter and fathering four children with her.

Victorian state police in the Latrobe Valley (150km east of Melbourne) say DNA tests have established the accused man is the father of his daughter’s four children, and that he abused his daughter over a 30-year period.

The man is accused of keeping his daughter a virtual prisoner, raping her almost daily.

The accused, who is in his 60s and cannot be identified for legal reasons, is due to face court in November. He lived with his daughter, their children and his wife. The allegations of rape and incest revealed yesterday date back to the 1970s, when the girl was just 11.

The abused woman reportedly gave birth to the four babies in Melbourne hospitals. All four children were born with health difficulties, and one of them died from severe developmental problems soon after birth.

No father’s name is listed on any of their birth certificates, which has led to questions as to why no one investigated further at the time. The woman and her three surviving children are reportedly in a safe house, being cared for by the authorities.

Victorian premier John Brumby only learned of the details yesterday morning.

“I am advised by police that . . . this has been going on for some considerable period of time,” he told a Melbourne radio station. “I guess we will all have an interest in knowing if that is the case, how is it that that occurred? How is it that the community was not aware, or the doctors or teachers or others, or child protection?”

Victoria’s community services minister, Lisa Neville, had also just become aware of the case. “I don’t know what or if there has been any involvement at all over 30 years from the department or police or other organisations, so I don’t know if there is any information that actually exists,” she said.

“They are very serious allegations, but they are before the courts and we will all obviously need to look into the details of these cases.”

The newspaper which broke the story, Melbourne’s Herald Sun, said authorities were warned of the man’s activities years ago but had failed to investigate.

The man was charged in February, after his alleged victim approached police – three years after she first alerted officers, but added she did not want them to act because she feared for her safety. The man allegedly threatened her, her mother and her children.

The man’s wife claims to be unaware of any abuse.

Speaking in the state parliament yesterday, Mr Brumby said a crime such as this “would be met with the full force of the law”.

“Any crime against children, any crime against minors is appalling enough on its own, and then for any crime of this type to occur within a family, any crime of that type, speaking generally, is the worst possible crime you can imagine. Speaking more generally if I could, any crime of this type is one that is shocking and is personally repulsive to me and to other Victorians . . .

“We can never guarantee that every child at risk is going to get 100 per cent guarantees of safety. But we can guarantee, I think, and we can aspire to make sure the best possible support is there and available to assist those families,” he said.

There were calls in parliament for Ms Neville to resign. The incest case was revealed just a day after a damning report found child protection workers in Victoria had placed three children in the care of convicted sex offenders.

Bernadette McMenamin, chief executive of Australian child welfare group Childwise, says incest often goes unreported.

“Incest is a greater problem than sexual abuse occurring in the community,” she said.

“So in terms of figures, it is very hard to estimate, but Childwise uses an amalgamation of local and international statistics, which say one in four girls and one in seven boys will experience some form of sexual abuse.”