Fritzl Gets Life After Pleading Guilty to Murder, Enslavement | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.03.2009
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Fritzl Gets Life After Pleading Guilty to Murder, Enslavement

Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned and raped his daughter over 24 years, was sentenced to life in prison for murder through negligence of a newborn who died in a secret cellar under his house.

Josef Fritzl, center, is escorted to the fourth day of his trial in the provincial courthouse in St. Poelten, Austria

Fritzl pleaded guilty to all charges brought against him

The jury also found Fritzl unanimously guilty of incest, rape, enslavement, coercion, and forced imprisonment on Thursday, March 19.

He pleaded guilty to the crimes earlier this week. The 73-year-old accepted the verdicts and waived his right to appeal.

Court officials in St. Poelten, west of Vienna, said Fritzl would be held in a regional prison pending a transfer to a secure psychiatric facility.

They said if he were found to be rehabilitated, he would, in theory, serve the remainder of his sentence in prison.

Before the verdict had been announced, Fritzl had made a last expression of remorse.

"I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart," the retired engineer told the eight jurors before they retired to quickly reach guilty verdict. "Unfortunately, I can't change anything now."

Fritzl an "exploiter"

Prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser

Prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said Fritzl was not to be believed

But chief prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said the remorse shown by Fritzl was not genuine.

"Don't believe him, he's shown his true face in trying to exploit people's gullibility," she said of Fritzl and his stunning change of heart on Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to enslaving his daughter Elisabeth as well as murder.

Fritzl had forced his daughter Elisabeth, now 42, to live in a hidden underground cellar where he routinely raped her, leading to the birth of seven children.

He was found to have caused the death of the newborn by failing to seek medical help despite knowing the child was in danger of dying.

He had earlier pleaded innocent to the charges of murder and enslavement, but reversed his plea on Wednesday after being faced with 11 hours of video testimony given by Elisabeth.

Sentence "obvious"

Demonstrators outside the court to protest against Fritzl

Demonstrators camped outside the court to protest against Fritzl

Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said that his client found the verdict "fair."

"After confessing to 3,000 instances of rapes, 24 years of captivity in a cellar plus murder, it's obvious that such a sentence will be handed down," Mayer told journalists.

Psychiatrist Adelheid Kastner told the court Wednesday that Fritzl was emotionally stunted and still posed a danger despite his age.

"He is aware -- he says so himself -- that he has an evil side. He is aware that he was born to rape. He has that partly under control. But as soon as he loosens his grip, everything erupts out.

"The basic need was for power. It is about domination, about power, about control."

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