Josef Fritzl, the Austrian who admits imprisoning his daughter and fathering children by her, may seek to avoid jail by pleading insanity, his lawyer indicated in comments published Sunday, May 4.
What's being dubbed in the press as the "horror house"
"In my personal opinion, Josef Fritzl is mentally ill and therefore of diminished responsibility," lawyer Rudolf Mayer told German weekly Bild am Sonntag in an interview.
"I believe that my client does not belong in prison but in a secure psychiatric unit."
A view into a hidden room in the cellar
Until now Mayer has given no indication of how Fritzl would plead in any trial, saying he did not believe that his client he would receive a fair hearing in view of the huge amount of press coverage the case has attracted.
If he believes that a psychiatric evaluation of Fritzl, 73, ordered by the court does not give a proper assessment of his client he will consider ordering a separate report himself, Mayer told Bild.
He added that he is "not defending a monster but a human being, even if that is hard to take for some people. I am already receiving threatening letters saying that I belong in the cellar with Mr. Fritzl."
Fritzl, currently in custody, has admitted imprisoning his daughter in a specially made dungeon in his basement for nearly a quarter century where he fathered seven children by her, one of whom died, according to Austrian police.
Investigation almost complete
Mayer's comments came as the head of the investigation in the town of Amstetten, Franz Polzer, said that police were close to completing their examination of the bunker.
Part of the cellar where Elisabeth Fritzl spent 24 years of her life
"Our puzzle is almost complete," Polzer told Austrian paper Kurier, adding that there was "no evidence" that Fritzl had any accomplices.
"We already know a lot and thanks to our information are currently putting things in order in this case," he said.
A major task of police is to establish whether Fritzl was serious about his alleged threat to gas the occupants of his windowless bunker if anything happened to him.
He confirmed to Austrian news agency APA details about the dungeon from Fritzl's daughter Elisabeth's published by German weekly Der Spiegel.
In front of children
The magazine said that for the first nine years of her imprisonment the dungeon comprised just one room, implying that incestuous sex or rape took place in the presence of young children.
From 1984 to 1993, "repeated rapes committed by Josef Fritzl" took place in front of children born in 1988, 1990 and 1992, the report cited Elisabeth's testimony to police as saying.
It also said Elisabeth was handcuffed to a post for the first two days underground, when she was 19 years old. She was then tied to a leash for the next six or nine months so that she could go to the toilet on her own. The magazine also said Elisabeth has exonerated her mother Rosemarie.
The regional clinic where Elisabeth Fritzl and three of her six children are being treated
The 42-year-old was held captive by her father for 24 years, repeatedly raped and gave birth to seven children by him. She is currently receiving medical and psychological treatment together with all her children. She spelled out that Rosemarie "knew nothing of her incarceration, and had nothing to do with (Elisabeth's plight)."
Polzer also told Kurier that Fritzl had already installed a thick steel door in his cellar before imprisoning his daughter there in 1984.
Elisabeth's daughter, Kerstin, 19, remained in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Amstetten, a spokesman said.
She has been in an artificially induced coma for the last two weeks and is on a ventilation machine.
Her life-threatening illness had led to the release on April 24 of her mother and two of her siblings from the basement cellar.