From The Times
March 20, 2009
Roger Boyes in St Pölten
Josef Fritzl used to boast that he was lord over life and death. Today an Austrian court jailed him for life, ensuring that he would almost certainly end his days behind the high walls of a psychiatric unit for the most dangerous of disturbed criminals.
There will be no appeal. “I accept the sentence,” said Fritzl, his shoulders hunched.
But despite the horror of his crimes there are no plans for an investigation into the failings of police and social services, or for new laws such as a sex offenders list.
He was found guilty of throwing his daughter, Elisabeth, into a homemade dungeon when she was 18 and making her a sex slave for almost a quarter of a century. The prosecutor calculated that he had raped her at least 3,000 times.
Fritzl, 73, fathered seven children in the cellar. He murdered one of them, a baby boy who, struggling for breath, was allowed to die while the building engineer went upstairs to watch television. That murder ensured a life sentence.
“I regret from the bottom of my heart what I have done to my family,” Fritzl told the jury in a thin, croaking voice. “Unfortunately I cannot make amends for it. I can only attempt to look for possibilities to try to limit the damage that has been done.”
If he had hoped to win them over and secure a milder sentence, he was disappointed. He could be released after 14 years but that was dismissed by a court spokesman as no more than a theoretical possibility. He will be 87 then, a bankrupt with no family to look after him.
His daughter made plain in video-taped testimony this week that she hated him. Her representative in court emphasised that Ms Fritzl wanted her father to stay behind bars until he died. That was the decisive moment in one of Europe’s most extraordinary trials – Elisabeth the martyr had become an avenging angel.
With no inquiry likely to be forthcoming, the Austrian Government did say that Fritzl would have to secure permission from the Justice Ministry if he wanted to write and sell his memoirs.
Austria, it seems, is rid of its monster. He was led away by a platoon of policemen to a cell that he shares with a violent suspect. Unlike the dungeon where he incarcerated his daughter, it has a window.