Fritzl Trial, Day 2: Defense Portrays Rapist Abuser As A Caring Family Man

In court today, the defense said Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man accused of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years, raping her, and fathering her seven children, was "not a monster." His daughter's testimony said otherwise.

  • According to The Independent, Fritzl once again entered court holding a blue folder in front of his face, and held it up for 10 minutes until cameramen were ordered to leave the courtroom.
  • Prosecutor Christians Burkheiser told the jury the ceiling of Fritzl's cellar was only five feet from the ground and that the cellar itself had no heat, no shower, no warm water, and hardly any ventilation for the first nine years Elisabeth was imprisoned there. Burkheiser said:
    He kept his daughter in a room that measured only 11sq meters for nine years. That is just about the size of the jury box you are sitting in .... In the summer it was blisteringly hot. In the winter it was freezing cold. Nobody can really imagine what went on down there.
  • Burkheiser said that during the first few years of her imprisonment, Frtizl never spoke to his daughter, he just randomly entered the room and raped her. "He would turn down the lights, rape her and then turn the lights back up," she said. After the children were born, Fritzl raped her repeatedly in front of them. Elisabeth was kept in the cellar in complete darkness and without electricity for periods of up to 10 days.
  • Fritzl told Elisabeth that he had installed three locking doors and electronically operated light barriers which would flood the cellar with gas if she tried to escape.
  • A few weeks before Elisabeth was due to give birth to their first child, Fritzl gave her a dirty mattress, a filthy blanket, and an old book about childbirth.
  • The Guardian reports that Burkheiser told the jury she didn't feel the full impact of the cellar prison until she visited it herself. She said:
    I've seen the cellar dungeon twice. It has a morbid atmosphere, which starts with having to crawl in on your hands and knees through the 83cm entranceway. And it's sinister. It's really bad. It's incredibly damp, a damp that creeps into you after just a few minutes.

    She continued:

    "But do you know what the worst thing was? The uncertainty: when will he return, when will he turn on the electricity, when will he go again, what will happen if he doesn't return?"

    She said Elisabeth's life in the cellar could be encapsulated in the sentence: "Light out. Rape. Light on. Mould. Rape. In front of the children. The uncertainty. Birth. Death. Rape."

  • Fritzl's defense attorney, Rudolf Mayer, shocked the court by claiming that Fritzl was a caring family man, according to The Mirror. Mayer said:
    A man who put so much effort into keeping two families cannot be called a monster. If I only want a daughter as a sex slave, I don't let her bring children into the world. You'd let them starve.

    He continued:

    "This is a man who had wanted to have two families. If he had not wanted children he could have used contraceptives.

    "If he didn't care about children he could have disposed of them. He had the power. But he slept in the cellar with his children and spent time with them over Christmas. He cared for his second family.

    "When his oldest daughter was ill, what would a monster do? What would a killer do?

    "What this man did was take her to hospital. He could have killed her and everyone else."

    "He could have claimed that he was mentally unstable and tried to escape these proceedings. But he did not do so. He's not trying to say he was mentally ill."

  • The Guardian reports that Elisabeth's 11 hours of videotaped testimony is so harrowing it's being played for the four-woman, four-man jury in small portions and other jurors are standing by in case the eight main jurors decide they can't cope.
  • According to the Daily Mail, Elisabeth agreed to testify on the condition that she would never have to see her father again.
  • Elisabeth said Fritzl would come in the cellar with boxes of pornographic videotapes and make her reenact scenes in them. She says she suffered serious internal injuries from oversized sex toys he used on her.
  • The defense presented information about Fritzl's childhood. As the Daily Mail reports:
    Fritzl said: "I did not have a good relationship with my mother. She tried to stop me having any friends. But I had one she didn't know about and that friend bitterly let me down. So I decided that I would not have any friends after that."

    "I had a very difficult childhood. My mother didn't want me. She was 42 when she had me. She simply didn't want a child and she treated me correspondingly. I was beaten."

    He told the jury that, at the age of 12, he had made it clear to his mother that he would not tolerate being beaten any longer and would defend himself.

    'From that point on, I was Satan personified for her,' he said.

  • Fritzl's wife Rosemarie now lives alone and has begun divorce proceedings.
  • The rest of the trial will be conducted in secret until a verdict scheduled for Friday. The judge's decision has angered the Austrian public. One Austrian lawyer is quoted as saying: "I thought secret trials ended with Stalin, but obviously I was wrong."

    'Herr Fritzl, Can You Just Answer One Thing – Why?' [The Independent]
    'Light out. Rape. Light On. Rape. In Front Of The Children. Birth. Death. Rape' [The Guardian]
    Josef Fritzl Trial: Lawyer Insists Dungeon Fiend Was A Caring Family Man [The Mirror]
    Josef Fritzl Trial Judge Clears Court For Daughter's Evidence [The Guardian]
    Elisabeth Fritzl Tells The World How Her Father Forced Her To Re-Enact Porn Films With Him In The Cellar Dungeon [Daily Mail]

    Earlier: Austrian Abuser Admits To Rape But Denies Murder On First Day In Court