Fritzl's evil secret

“I knew that Elisabeth did not want the things I did to her. I knew that I was hurting her. But the urge to be finally able to taste the forbidden fruit was too strong. It was like an addiction.”
Extract from Josef Fritzl’s statement released shortly after his arrest in April 2008

Fritzl first rapes his daughter in 1978. Elisabeth isn’t yet a teenager.
He has ‘prepared’ her by leaving pornographic magazines under her pillow. He then exposed himself to her. He then starts to sexually abuse her.

Elisabeth never discusses her abuse with anyone.


The construction work underneath the family home nears official completion. This is, however, only the start for Fritzl. He’ll build a labyrinth of rooms covering an area of 60 sq metres.
The flats above are rented out to tenants. But Fritzl’s principle rule is that any entry into the cellars below would mean instant eviction. Nobody dares cross him.

“... he managed to camouflage himself as a respectable member of society while...leading this double life of monstrosity.”
Bojan Panchevski, European Correspondent

On 28 January 1983, Elisabeth runs away from home.
But being underage, a warrant is issued for the minor’s return. Police find her in Vienna. Tragically, they return her to her parents. Josef Fritzl promises her that she will never run away again.

By summer 1983 the cellar is completed.
Fritzl says they will be used as workshops and for storage.
But the ‘rabbit warren’ like complex has cupboards with doors in them that lead to narrow corridors through which one can only crawl. Using his skills as an engineer and an electrician, Fritzl installs electric locks that can only be opened using a special code and activated only by a remote control he always keeps on him.

In May 1984, Elisabeth announces she will move in with her sister in nearby Linz. This is effectively an exit strategy. But Fritzl fears that if Elisabeth is free of his daily control, she may go public with what he’s been doing to her in private. He can’t go back to prison.
So instead, he decides to imprison her.

On 28 August 1984, Fritzl requests his 18-year-old daughter come to his study. When her back is turned, he uses a chloroform infused rag to cover her face.
He carries Elisabeth’s unconscious body to her prepared prison. It contains a bed, TV and video. He chains her up.
When she wakes, he forces her to write a letter. In it Elisabeth says she’s runaway to join a cult.
Fritzl drives 100 miles out of town to post the letter. Rumours spread that if Elisabeth hasn’t joined a cult, she’s probably prostituting herself in Holland.

British born, local journalist, Mark Perry is contacted by the police. They want him to put a picture of the missing girl in his paper. They’re convinced she’s the victim of a crime, but can’t track her.
She was literally under the noses of the press and police in a prison on a dog’s leash.

In that fetid, dark, humid prison, Fritzl starves, beats, tortures and repeatedly rapes his daughter. To ensure compliance, he chains her to the wall. When he leaves her, her only company are rats and insects.

“...the only way we can explain that survival is her own personal resilience and the psychological concept of the Stockholm syndrome, whereby the person who has been taken hostage learns to accommodate the hostage taker. In other words, if the hostage wants to survive that experience, they have to do basically what the hostage taker wants them to do...(and) part of the Stockholm Syndrome is making the hostage feel as if there is literally no escape. He convinces Elisabeth that there’s gas traps, that there’s electronic doors, that there’s no way that anybody can hear her cry. It’s part of the process of controlling her in that space.”
Professor David Wilson, Criminologist

The rapes continue.
Inevitably, horrifically, Elisabeth becomes pregnant. Alone, she miscarries.
The rapes continue. She becomes pregnant again. Fritzl gives her a book on childbirth, a couple of nappies, a towel...and a pair of scissors.