Austrian Vigil For Cellar Family
Austrian Vigil For Cellar Family Website
Hundreds of people have held an emotional candlelit vigil in the Austrian town where Josef Fritzl kept his daughter in a cellar for 24 years. The residents of Amstetten were showing solidarity for the woman, Elisabeth, and the children she bore him. "We want to show that Amstetten is not a town for criminals", said the mayor. Police say DNA evidence confirms Mr Fritzl's confession that he is the father of his daughter Elisabeth's six surviving children. Several hundred people gathered for an emotional tribute on Tuesday evening to Mr Fritzl's family. The event was organised by a local convent school. Children, their parents, teachers and nuns lit candles and stood in the rain to express their solidarity and outrage. 'Appeared normal' Officials said Elisabeth, now 42, and three children who had lived with her in the cellar had an "astonishing" reunion with her other children, who lived an apparently normal life with Mr Fritzl as his "grandchildren". The two halves of the family met at the clinic where they are receiving psychiatric treatment. Mr Fritzl's wife, who was told by her husband that their daughter had run away from home to join a religious cult, also had an emotional meeting with her daughter, officials said. Three of the children were kept in the cellar with their mother and had never seen daylight until their release a few days ago. The other three were adopted or fostered by Mr Fritzl, after he forced Elisabeth to write letters saying she could not look after them. Lower Austria police chief Franz Polzer said the 73-year-old, had completely deceived his wife, his family and authorities in the town, 75 miles (120 kilometres) west of Vienna. Social workers had made regular visits to the family, officials said, but found nothing out of the ordinary. They had reported that Mr Fritzl's wife was attentive, and that the children living upstairs played musical instruments and were involved with clubs at school, where they were doing well. Regarding the cellar itself, Amstetten authorities authorised the building of an extension with a basement to the Fritzl property in 1978, city spokesman Hermann Gruber told the APA. Inspectors who had examined the project in 1983 - the year before Elisabeth went missing - said nothing looked suspicious, the APA reported. Mr Fritzl has been detained for a further 14 days by a regional court in the provincial capital of St Poelten. On the advice of his lawyer, he did not speak to the examining magistrate. His lawyer told the BBC that although Mr Fritzl showed no signs of remorse, he looked very sad and "emotionally broken". Berthold Kepplinger, director of the psychiatric clinic at a local hospital, said Elisabeth had been reunited with five of her six children and her mother there on Sunday morning. "It was astonishing how easily it happened - how the mother and grandmother came together," he said. Elisabeth's eldest child, 19-year-old Kerstin, became seriously ill earlier this month and had to be taken to hospital, where she is currently in a coma. She was imprisoned by Mr Fritzl along with her 18- and 5-year-old brothers, police said. Police have said there is no evidence to suggest the grandmother, Rosemarie, nor any of the children she had with Mr Fritzl, were aware of any of the alleged crimes. Fishing club member Mr Kepplinger said the family members had interacted very naturally, although he said two of the children who had spent their lives underground had a way of communicating that was "anything but normal". He said Elisabeth had spoken "quite a lot" about what she had gone through in captivity, but he declined to provide details. "It was definitely dreadful for her and for her children," he added. Police are continuing to search both the upstairs flat and the cellar where Elisabeth and three of her children were held. Mr Fritzl, a dues-paying member of Amstetten's fishing club, faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted of raping and beating his daughter, and sequestration. They are also considering charges of "murder through failure to act" in connection with the death of one of the seven children he fathered. Mr Fritzl has admitted burning the infant's body shortly after it died, police said.