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How Elisabeth Fritzl Was Imprisoned For 24 Years By Her Father Josef

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When Elisabeth Fritzl’s name made news headlines for all wrong reasons, even many hard-hearted people could not help but feel their eyes moistened. How could a man be so merciless and that to his daughter? 

He was forced to stay in a dirt-walled cellar for more than two decades. Throughout this long time, she was tortured and raped by Josef Fritzl, her father. 

Josef imprisoned Elisabeth at Ybbsstrasse 40 in Amstetten, Austria for 24 years.  

What Happened?

Elisabeth was only 18-years- old when she went missing. She had been missing since August 28, 1984. No one had any idea where she might have gone.

Her mother Rosemarie rushed to the local police station to file a missing complaint. For weeks, she has not heard from Elisabeth. With every moment fleeting away, she grew more anxious about her daughter. In fact, she was fearing the WORST.

Then, a letter from Elisabeth arrived from nowhere. In the letter, she claimed that she had gotten bored with her life and so, decided to run away.

Elisabeth’s father Josef Fritzl told the police officers that he was clueless to her daughter’s whereabouts while expressing his doubt that she might have joined a religious cult since she used to talk about it quite often.  

He was lying through his teeth. The man knew everything and was trying to misguide the police. In fact, Elisabeth was 20 feet below the spot where he was having chats with the investigating officers. 

For the next 24 years, she spent her life as a prisoner, confined to a dark, dirty room in the family basement, tortured, abused, molested and raped hundreds of times by his own father before finally being rescued in 2008. 

The gut-wrenching story of Elisabeth Fritzl infamously came to be known as “The Girl in the Basement”. 

How Did Elisabeth Reach There?

On August 28, 1984, Josef Frizl took his daughter Elisabeth into the basement of his house. He needed some help to carry a door to be re-fitted to a newly renovated cellar. While Elisabeth was holding the door, he got busy with fixing it into the hinges.

 Josef Frizl took his daughter Elisabeth into the basement

As soon as he was done with the work, Josef swung the door open, forced Elisabeth into the room and used an ether-soaked towel to knock her unconscious. 

For the next 24 years, Elisabether could not see the blue sky, feel the soft breeze soaking her pain, and watch the spring colours blooming all around. Most importantly, she missed motherly love and care. On top of that, she discovered a monster and sex-maniac in her father.

Josef lied to everyone, his wife, neighbours and the police, diverting their attention to false stories. The case was almost on the verge of becoming another cold file at the police station, the mask fell off and the ugly truth came out as a nauseating shocker. 

The world came to know about the heinous crime that could happen to a girl, committed by her own father. The man does not deserve even hate.

Cellar Home for Elisabeth’s Confinement

It was pre-planned by a cold-blooded monster. Josef built the cellar in the basement for Elisabeth’s confinement.

It was surprising how his wife and other tenants did not come to know about it.

Every morning, Josef headed down to the basement at 9 a.m. Rosemarie knew that Josef would be busy with his drafting plans for machines that he used to deal in. Sometimes, he used to spend the night there. His wife found nothing suspicious.

She knew Josef as a hard-working man who was always focused on his career.

Josef Impregnated Elisabeth 

Josef used to visit Elisabeth at least thrice a week.  For the first couple of years, he left Elisabeth alone. Then, he started raping her, continued with his nighly visits that he started when Elisabeth was only a 11-year old girl.

Within two years of her forced confinement, she became pregnant but suffered miscarriage in the 10th week of her pregnancy. After two years, she became pregnant again and this time, completed her term. In August 1988, she gave birth to Kerstin, a baby girl. After two years, she birthed a boy  named Stefan.

Both the brother and sister remained captive along with their mother until all were rescued. Josef used to bring them rations of food and water every week. Elisabeth tried to teach the children basic education that she had. She made her level best to help them live a normal life under such a horrific condition.

Over the 24 years of her imprisonment, Elisabeth gave birth to five more children. One more child was allowed to live with Elisabeth in the basement, one died immediately after birth and Josef took the other three upstairs. He had other plans up his sleeve. 

How the Crime Went Unnoticed for Years

Elisabeth had no idea about the date and time. She was shut from the outside world. She turned 42 without her being aware of it. All these years, her tears have dried up; she has lost all hope of ever coming out of the cage.

She knew she would die here one day and the world would never know what a monster had done to her.

To conceal his crime from his wife, Josef staged a drama involving three children, often placing them near the home, on the doorstep or in bushes.

Each time, the child would be dressed neatly and accompanied with a note allegedly penned by Elisabeth Fritzl, wherein she entrusted her parents with her children’s safekeeping as she could not take care of them.

Shockingly, Rosomarie never doubted his husband. Moreover, the police officers too trusted Josef and believed that they were the children’s grandparents.

It is unknown how long Josef planned to keep Elisabeth imprisoned in his basement. For 24 long years, he managed to conceal his crime. Had he not been caught, Josef would have continued to get away with it for another 24 years or more. However, one of the children in the basement fell ill.

Elisabeth pleaded with her father to take her 19-year old daughter Kerstin to hospital for medical treatment.  She had fallen seriously ill. She was beside herself. 

Josef agreed. He took out Kerstin from the cellar, called an ambulance and claimed that he had received a note from Kerstin’s mother about the girl’s condition. 

For a week, police interrogated Kerstin and asked the public for information about the family. Expectedly, no one came as they knew no such family. The police grew suspicious of Josef and decided to reopen the investigation into Elisabeth’s strange disappearance. 

They started reading the letters that Elisabeth had allegedly written for the Fritzals. It did not take them long to notice discrepancies in them.

Police Got to the Root of the Horrifying Crime

No one knows whether Josef was fearing police investigation or had a change of mind, which prompted him to release Elisabeth from the cellar on April 26, 2008. She immediately rushed to the hospital to see if her daughter was fine and hospital staff informed police about her arrival. 

The police officials took Elisabeth into custody for interrogation about her daughter’s illness and Josef. She requested the police that she did not have to see the man again. Elisabeth revealed everything about her 24-year imprisonment. 

She told them Josef forced her to watch porns before raping her. She explained that Josef had been abusing her since she was only 11. 

The police handcuffed Josef that night.

After the Arrest 

After Josef’s arrest, the police rescued other children from the basement. Meanwhile, Rosemarie fled the home despite allegedly not being aware of anything that was taking  place in the basement. Josef’s statement also supported Rosomerie’s innocence. 

Surprisingly, the tenants, who had lived on the first floor in the apartment, did not suspect anything. Josef used to blame a noisy heater and defective piping to explain away all odd sounds.

These days, Elisabeth Fritzl, famously known as “the girl in the basement’ lives under a new name in a secret village, called “Village X” in Austria. The police keep patrolling around her house that also has a CCTV camera for constant surveillance.

The family does not let in an interviewer. Though Elisabeth is in her mid-fifties, her last photo in public was of a 16-year old girl. 

Giving her a new identity is a psychological trick to keep her past trauma hidden from the public and media as well as help her turn a new leaf in her life. According to many, the media has made Elisabeth immortal by weaving “the girl in the basement” story around her without ever mentioning her name. 

What do you think?

Written by Rajeev

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