The evolution from a man to a monster
In 1951, at the age of 16, Josef Fritzl left Amstetten and went to work an hour’s drive away at the Austrian city of Linz, some 40 miles away. He became a technical assistant in an engineering company.
There, in 1956, Josef Fritzl met Rosemarie Bayer:
“She had never had a boyfriend before. He (Fritzl) was the first one...My first impression was good. He was friendly, nice and young...That changed over the years. He became a despot.”
Christine Ranner, Rosemarie’s Sister
“...he told friends that she would make a good wife, a good housewife, because she seemed to be obedient, accepting of things.”
Bojan Panchevski, European Correspondent
Less than a year after meeting Rosemarie, Josef married her. She was just seventeen. The year after first meeting, they had their first child.
By September 1963, after seven years of marriage, Fritzl and Rosemarie had three children, two daughters and a son. The family have moved back to 40 Ybbstrasse in Amstetten.
Josef Fritzl’s job was going well. Engineers were in constant demand in the post war years.
The shabby illegitimate boy had turned into a confident and authoritative man.
His firm then sent him to Ghana for a couple of years. When he returned, his three children were older, and less dependent on him. Unsure of himself, he resorted to violence. One source claims he broke his son’s nose and that the child was often too bruised to be sent to school.
On 8 April 1966, 40 Ybbstrasse saw the arrival of the Fritzl’s fourth child, Elisabeth. The household was by now, ‘increasingly volatile.’
Fritzl was back working as an engineer in Linz and reverted to the predatory habits he picked up as a teenager.
The industrial city of Linz in the Northern part of Austria, on the banks of the river Danube, had a red light district. There, he ‘could escape the scrutiny of a small town’ and ‘indulge in his sexual interests’. But even paid prostitutes couldn’t satisfy all his desires.
HUSBAND, FATHER, BUSINESSMAN, RAPIST
On 6 October 1967 he followed a young mother home. After she’d fallen asleep, he broke in. At knife point, he raped her. Her child was asleep next to them in a cot.
Fritzl received just 18 months for the rape at knifepoint of a young mother.
He served less than a year.
And worse, under Austrian law, unless a crime carries a life sentence, the conviction doesn’t stay on the person’s record. In the eyes of the state, after 15 years, Fritzl had never raped.
And as far as Fritzl’s wife was concerned, he was forgiven.
She had visited him in the prison. And after release, she never mentioned the incident again.
This did not stop Fritzl trying again. Maria Neubauer was attacked by Fritzl as she returned home from work at the local factory. But he failed to get her to the ground and she managed to fight him off. She reported it to the police but Fritzl was never identified.
By the end of 1972, the Fritzl family had seven children – 4 girls and 3 boys. Fritzl was a successful professional and a wealthy and respected member of the Amstetten community. Neighbours and colleagues described him as hard-working, polite and affectionate. His predilection for administering corporal punishment to his children was entirely fitting to his time and place.
In 1973 Fritzl decided to set up a side business. He purchased Seestern guest house next to Mondsee Lake in Salzkammergut. This three storey hotel had 40 bedrooms. It wasn’t a success;
“...when he got financially into trouble, the place caught fire and burnt down...authorities suspected an insurance scam, but never managed to prove anything.”
Bojan Panchevski, European Correspondent
In 1978, Josef Fritzl decided to expand the family home at 40 Ybbsstrasse.
He wanted a roof terrace and a new extension with nine new flats for tenants…
And planning permission was given for a rather large cellar.
Elisabeth Fritzl was now 11-years-old. Her manner reminded Fritzl of himself as a boy. He believed they had a special connection. This belief became an obsession. He spied on her and demanded to know where she was at all times.
Elisabeth did have a few close friends, among them, twins – Jutta and Christa Haberci; they used to secretly smoke cigarettes and Christa and Elisabeth used to walk to school together.
“We knew that several things in the family were not okay, well, one sensed it, but you didn’t talk about it.”
Christa knew Elisabeth’s father was not a good man. He had a “strictness in the face...sinister eyes, no smile, no kindness.”
In September 1981 Elisabeth started a tourism and gastronomy course in Waldegg, a small town 12 miles from Amstetten. She also worked in a petrol station restaurant to support herself.
Such independence scared Fritzl. He planned to make sure she could never leave him:
“I had to do something. I had to create a place where I could keep Elisabeth, by force if necessary, away from the outside world.”