Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Daughter-Dungeon of Joseph Fritzl


Alfred Gusenbauer
Alfred Gusenbauer

Can Elisabeth Fritzl forgive the world for not discovering, rescuing and protecting her?

A significant gap in the case was the authorities' failure to investigate the cult allegations. Manfred Wohlfahrt, the authority on sects in the Fritzl's diocese, was not consulted until Kerstin showed up in the hospital. He concluded that Elisabeth's letters may have been written under coercion, but that it was unlikely Elisabeth was involved in a cult.

Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, concerned about his country's image, was quick to declare that the Fritzl case is "not an Austrian phenomenon," declaring, "We won't allow the whole country to be held hostage by one man." The Fritzl case has, unfortunately, some similarity to another recent Austrian case: in 1998 Wolfgang Priklopil abducted ten-year-old Natascha Kampusch, keeping her captive in a small cellar until she escaped in 2006.

Natascha Kampusch
Natascha Kampusch

The Fritzl case has not yet gone to trial. Josef Fritzl may face charges of rape, incest, coercion and deprivation of freedom; he could also face a manslaughter or murder charge for the death of his infant twin son, Michael. Fritzl, however, will likely not serve much time. Even for murder, Austria's current maximum sentence is a mere 15 years. Furthermore, those convicted in Austrian courts of multiple crimes serve the time only on the longest sentence; sentences are not served consecutively. Additionally, Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, has suggested that the man is mentally ill and should be treated rather than condemned.

While Elisabeth Fritzl has cooperated with the investigation and provided evidence, it is rumored that some of her children may not testify. Their statements would serve as key testimony in the case and would be especially important on the rape and murder charges. Barring a conviction on one of those charges, Fritzl would at most serve ten years for deprivation of freedom.

Rudolf Mayer
Rudolf Mayer

Josef Fritzl's trial will likely begin in early 2009. His fate will be determined by eight jurors consulting with three judges.

Leading up to a November 2008 indictment, Fritzl submitted to extensive interviews with prison psychiatrist Dr. Adelheid Kastner. Leaked court reports connected to these interviews reveal yet more horrors.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'