The world’s media has gathered outside a court in Austria, ahead of the start of the trial of Josef Fritzl – the man accused of holding his daughter captive for 24 years and fathering seven children by her.
Police say Fritzl lured Elizabeth into the cellar of his apartment block in the town of Amstetten in 1984. He claimed she had joined a religious sect and forced her to write letters telling people not to look for her. It is alleged that Elizabeth was abused and kept imprisoned in the windowless, soundproofed network of underground cells with three of her children. Three others lived with Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie. A baby boy died shortly after birth in 1996. The case sent a shudder of shame and revulsion through Amstetten after it came to light in April 2008. “The name of Amstetten will always be linked to this one person. It is very irritating and terrible for us and it is very hard to take in, in the long run,” was the opinion of one local resident. Fritzl’s lawyer says his client will contest a charge of murder relating to the baby boy, but will plead guilty to a series of other offences ranging from incest and rape to enslavement and coercion.