A man has confessed to imprisoning his daughter for 24 years in a windowless cell with a soundproofed door. He also fathered seven children with her including three who “never saw sunlight,” police said Monday.
Now 73, the man originally called Josef F also told investigators that he burned the body of one of the children when the infant died shortly after birth, said Franz Polzer, head of the Lower Austrian Bureau of Criminal Affairs.
“We are being confronted with an unfathomable crime,” Interior Minister Guenther Platter said.
The daughter and original victim, now 42, had been missing since 1984. She was found by police in Amstetten on Saturday evening after receiving a tip. She and the children have since been placed under psychiatric care in an undisclosed location.
Authorities on Monday released several photos showing parts of the cramped basement cell. The cell was comprised of a small bathroom and a narrow passageway leading to a tiny bedroom. Investigators said an electronic keyless-entry system kept the victims from escaping from the cell, which was made of solid concrete.
After initially withholding his full name, police released the man’s name along with a photograph at a news conference Monday. He briefly appeared in court Monday. He is being held in a pre-trial detention.
“He admitted that he locked his daughter, who was 18 at the time, in the cellar, that he repeatedly had sex with her, and that he is the father of her seven children,” the head of the Lower Austrian Bureau of Criminal Affairs told The Associated Press.
Three of the surviving children lived with the grandparents and were registered with authorities. The other three – aged 19, 18 and 5 – were confined during their entire lives to the darkness of their cell, Polzer said.
Hans-Heinz Lenze, a senior local official, said the suspect’s wife apparently had “no idea” of what went on and was crushed by the news.
Guenter Pramreiter, a bakery owner in the neighborhood, told The Associated Press that the suspect and his wife would regularly buy bread and rolls, though never in large quantities.
After receiving a tip, police picked up the 42-year-old mother/victim, authorities identified as Elisabeth F., and her father on Saturday in the vacnity f the hospital.
Police said she appeared “greatly disturbed” during questioning. She agreed to talk only after authorities assured her she would no longer have to have contact with her father and that her children would be cared for.
On Sunday evening, police reported that investigators had found the area where Elisabeth and three of the children were held captive. Investigators said the rooms were at most 5 feet 6 inches feet high. The area had a TV and small hot plates for cooking.
In a chronology of events outlined in a police statement to authorities, Elisabeth said her father began sexually abusing her when she was 11, and in 1984, sedated, handcuffed, and locked her in the cellar.
Police said a letter written by Elisabeth had apparently surfaced a month after her disappearance, asking her parents not to search for her. Her father would later claim she had run off with a cult.