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Father abuses daughter, keeps her locked up for 24 yrs

News18test sharma |

Updated: April 28, 2008, 12:18 AM IST
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Father abuses daughter, keeps her locked up for 24 yrs
Austrian woman alleges her father handcuffed and drugged her.

Austria: Austrian police have arrested a man they believe imprisoned his daughter in a windowless basement for 24 years, abused her and fathered seven children with her, they said on Sunday.

Police said the woman, identified as 42-year-old Elisabeth F, told them her father Josef had lured her into the basement of the block where the family lived in Amstetten in 1984, and drugged and handcuffed her before locking her up in the dungeon.

Authorities were still trying to piece together details of the case, which is reminiscent of that of Austrian Natascha Kampusch who spent eight years locked up in a windowless cell before dashing to freedom in August 2006.

Police said Josef was in custody and had told investigators how to enter the basement prison through a small hidden door, operated by a secret code, which only he had known. "There is not only one, but a number of rooms: one room to sleep in, one to cook, and there are also sanitation facilities," Franz Polzer, head of the criminal investigations unit in the province of Lower Austria, told broadcaster ORF.

Josef's wife Rosemarie had been unaware of what happened to her daughter and it was assumed Elisabeth had disappeared voluntarily when her parents received a letter from her saying they should not search for her.

Elisabeth gave birth to seven children during her ordeal, one of whom died shortly after being born, police said. They said three of her younger children were each left in the house, the first accompanied by a letter saying Elisabeth was unable to care for the baby herself. All were taken in by Josef and his wife as foster or adopted children.

"Apparently, Josef arranged for the children to have the proper papers on them when they were left in the building, and forced the mother to write the accompanying letters," Polzer of told a news conference. "The father seems to be very authoritarian and decided what happened and what was supposed to happen in the family - and today we know why he very closely guarded the basement."

The two oldest children, aged 18 and 19, and the youngest aged 5, had been locked up with their mother since birth and had never seen sunlight or received any education, police said. The case only came to light when the oldest child became seriously ill and was taken to hospital in Amstetten.

Josef said that child had also been left unconscious on his doorstep, according to media reports. A 19-year-old girl, who was seriously ill and is still fighting for her life, was last weekend dropped off at the hospital in Amstetten, a town of around 22,000 some 130 km (80 miles) west of the capital Vienna.

Doctors appealed for the girl's mother, who at that time was believed to have disappeared, to come forward to provide more details about the daughter's medical history. Josef then brought Elisabeth and her remaining two children out of the dungeon, telling his wife that their "missing" daughter had chosen to return home, police said.

"This is not a mother abandoning her child which then had to be admitted to hospital in a serious condition ... We know that she herself has been kept imprisoned by her own father for 24 years in the basement and furthermore she obviously was also subjected to sexual abuse," Polzer said. After questioning and assurances that she would have no further contact with her father - whom she said abused her from the age of 11 - Elisabeth agreed to make a "comprehensive statement".

Rosemarie, as well as Elisabeth and her children were receiving psychological counselling. DNA samples of all those involved were taken and would be analysed, police added.

First Published: April 28, 2008, 12:18 AM IST
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