Daughter tells of Fritzl first sexual advances at age 11
ELISABETH FRITZL told yesterday of her “agonising mental and physical state” after 24 years of extreme physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father Josef in a secret cellar under their home.
Her revelations in recorded video testimony yesterday came as the first image of a tired, jowled Josef Fritzl flashed around the world after lunch.
Letting his guard slip, Fritzl unwittingly revealed his face to a photographer before covering it with a folder and hurrying into court.
There he listened “carefully and intently”, a court spokesman said, with an eight-member jury to how, aged just 11, Elisabeth said she put up “huge resistance” to his first sexual advances.
Once imprisoned by her father, she said in testimony that she was no long able to resist him, remarks reflected in the full indictment against Josef Fritzl which has been seen by The Irish Times.
On August 29th, 1988, Elisabeth was alone at home with her father when, on the pretext of needing her help to carry a door, he allegedly lured her into the garage of their home in Amstetten, between Vienna and Linz.
There she remembers being forced into a chair and sedated with a cloth over her mouth and nose, presumed to have contained chloroform.
When she woke up, she says she was bound with an iron chain in a damp cellar, unaware it was a secret dungeon her father had constructed adjacent to the familiar cellar of her home in the Ybbstrasse.
The following day, her father Josef appeared in the cellar, she said, replaced the restraints with an iron chain around her waist and “violently” raped her.
She said Fritzl later removed the metal chain because, he reportedly said, “it was hindering the sexual activity”.
Her first months in the cellar were reportedly a daily ordeal of often several sexual assaults, with her father allegedly controlling her breathing with a hand over her mouth.
“If you do not do as I say, the situation will only get worse,” she says her father repeated in the first months. “In any case there is no chance you will get out of here.”
Elisabeth told of her first pregnancy, in the summer of 1986, which ended in a miscarriage in the 10th week.
She admitted suffering from depression at this point and, for the first time, from suicidal thoughts.
“Her soul was shattered,” states the indictment. She became pregnant again two years later and gave birth, alone, to her first baby, Kerstin.
Fritzl visited the mother and her baby 10 days after the birth. Six further children would follow in the coming years.
Summarising Elisabeth’s cellar ordeal, state prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said that, throughout the rape and humiliation and, to avoid further violence, she resigned herself to the hopelessness of her situation.
“She had no chance of survival in the cellar without him,” she said, “and if he wanted he would close the door, and then she and the children would have to see how they would manage without him.”
Defence lawyer Rudolf Mayer said yesterday that Fritzl was “embarrassed” and unlikely to use the opportunity of breaks in the screening to comment on his daughter’s testimony.
“He is simply ashamed, he’s already said everything,” said Mr Mayer.
“The facts are relatively clear; there can’t really be any surprises in a situation that has already been cleared up.”
On Monday, Fritzl pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Elisabeth when she was 18 and to raping her repeatedly over 24 years and fathering seven incestuous children.
He admits one of two charges of coercion, that he threatened to kill his second family if they tried to escape the cellar.
Fritzl denies two other charges: that he enslaved his daughter and that, through his own negligence, he was guilty of murder of one baby that developed breathing difficulties shortly after birth in 1996. He has denied part of the rape charge.
The uncontested charges carry terms of up to 15 years, the two contested charges of enslavement and murder carry terms of 20 and life respectively.
After the eight-member jury finish hearing Elisabeth Fritzl’s evidence by tomorrow, the court will readmit the public and media for testimony from a paediatrician and a psychiatrist.
Two engineers who have inspected Fritzl’s dungeon are expected to confirm prosecution claims that heavy doors into the cellar could only be opened by remote control and combination lock from the outside.
Elisabeth Fritzl’s brother Harald may also testify in video evidence that reportedly confirms her claims that their father first began sexually abusing her when she was just 11 years old.
The closed-door proceedings in St Pölten, 65km from Vienna, have prompted unhappy reactions from hundreds of international journalists in the town.
The authorities’ interest in victim protection extends to a blanket ban in the Austrian press on naming Josef Fritzl’s daughter, their children or even the family name or face a €20,000 fine.
One newspaper expressed concern that the exclusion of the media could give the impression that Austria is a “judicial banana republic”.
Particular concern is how the jury has managed to complete the viewing of 11 hours of testimony from Elisabeth by tomorrow morning.
A verdict in the 24-year case in expected on Thursday, after just four days in court.
“Many facts have not yet been clarified,” said Gisela Friedrichsen, court reporter for Der Spiegel magazine.
“That doesn’t serve the victims but the perpetrator. If the crime is not scrupulously clarified, the end effect will be to protect Josef Fritzl.”