I’m no monster, says Austrian incest father

An Austrian accused of keeping his daughter as a sex slave for 24 years insisted he is ”no monster”, but that he could have killed his daughter and her children without anyone knowing, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Josef Fritzl’s claims were published as the 73-year-old was interviewed by prosecutors for the first time and told them he was ready to cooperate and talk about the horrific accusations made against him.

”I’m no monster,” Fritzl said in comments passed by his lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, to the Oesterreich tabloid newspaper.

He claimed credit for having saved the life of his daughter and added: ”I could have killed them all. Then there would have been no trace. No one would have found me out.”

After interviewing the suspect for the first time since his arrest on April 28, investigating prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser found Fritzl to be ”cooperative” and ”ready to talk”, prosecution spokesperson Gerhard Sedlacek told reporters.

He said the interview lasted ”about one-and-a-half hours” and that Burkheiser had told him that the suspect appeared ”cooperative” and ready to talk.

Fritzl was not questioned about the accusations. ”The interview focused on his personal history, his professional career, etc,” the spokesperson said.

Fritzl was to appear before a magistrate on Friday who will decide whether to keep the suspect in custody for up to another month.

In the comments published by Oesterreich, Fritzl claimed he had saved the life of the eldest of the six surviving children from the sexual abuse.

Nineteen-year-old Kerstin, who was born in the cramped dungeon where Fritzl held his daughter prisoner, was rushed to hospital on April 19 with multiple organ failure, which doctors suggest could be a result of her incarceration.

She has since been in an artificially induced coma and put on a life-support machine.

Kerstin’s hospitalisation triggered the events that led to the discovery of the shocking abuse case. But Fritzl said: ”If it weren’t for me, Kerstin wouldn’t be alive today.”

He added: ”It was me who made sure she was taken to hospital.”

Police say the retired electrician has admitted that he locked away his daughter Elisabeth, now 42, when she was just 18 and repeatedly raped her, forcing her to bear seven children in all.

Three children remained incarcerated with their mother, three were legally adopted by Fritzl and taken to lead ”normal” lives as his ”grandchildren” in the family home upstairs. The seventh child died shortly after birth.

In the comments, Fritzl declined to comment on reported allegations that he raped not only Elisabeth, but Kerstin as well.

Fritzl is currently in prison in St Poelten where he is refusing to leave his cell.

Prison director Guenther Moerwald has previously described Fritzl as an ”unproblematic inmate: he’s calm, collected and alert”.

However, Fritzl was refusing to take the daily one-hour walk allowed in the prison yard.

Quizzed by Oesterreich on Wednesday, Moerwald said Fritzl was in a two-man cell with another inmate. ”He’s slowly getting used to daily life in prison,” Moerwald said.

The suspect was being kept apart from other inmates to prevent potential violence, but Fritzl was not being treated differently from other inmates and has access to television, radio and reading materials.

His lawyer Mayer said earlier this week that his client would plead diminished responsibility from mental illness. — AFP



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