In 1984, Elisabeth Fritzl, who was 18 years old at the time, disappeared. Her mother, Rosemarie, was worried about her daughter’s whereabouts and immediately filed a missing-persons report. Despite searching for weeks, there was no news of Elisabeth, and her parents feared the worst. However, they eventually received a letter from Elisabeth claiming that she had run away because she was tired of her family life.
When a policeman came to the house, Elisabeth’s father, Josef claimed that he had no knowledge of where she could be, speculating that she might have joined a religious cult, an idea that Elisabeth had previously discussed. In reality, however, Josef Fritzl knew exactly where his daughter was: she was being held ca*ptive 20 feet below where the police officer was standing.
August 28, 1984, was the day that Josef Fritzl called his daughter Elisabeth into the family home’s basement, saying that he needed her help carrying a door for the newly renovated cellar. But as soon as Elisabeth held the door, Josef quickly locked it and then opened it. He then hit her over the head with an ether-soaked towel to knock her out.
Life In Cap*tivity
The next 24 years of Elisabeth Fritzl’s life were spent in the dirt-walled cellar, with no view of the outside world. The girl’s father kept lying to her mother and the police, saying that Elisabeth had joined a cult and run away. After a while, the investigation into her disappearance stopped, and everyone forgot about the Fritzl girl who went missing.
Elisabeth Fritzl thought Josef was a bad person. At least three times a week, and sometimes every day, he went down to the basement to see her. He held her prisoner for the first two years without hurting her badly. However, he started raping her after two years, and he kept up the visits every night that began when Elisabeth was only eleven years old.
In her second year of being held ca*ptive, Elisabeth got pregnant but lost the baby at 10 weeks. After two years, she got pregnant again and gave birth to a healthy baby. Her first child was a girl named Kerstin in August 1988. Two years later, she had a boy named Stefan.
Josef provided Elisabeth with weekly rations of food and water while she was being held ca*ptive, and Kerstin and Stefan shared a cellar with her. Despite their terrible circumstances, Elisabeth tried her best to impart knowledge to them with her limited education and instill a sense of normalcy in their lives.
Elisabeth gave birth to seven children in the 24 years that she was held ca*ptive. One of them passed away soon after birth, but Josef let the other three stay in the cellar with her. Josef and Rosemarie took the other three kids upstairs to live.
Josef used complex plans, such as leaving the kids on bushes or the doorstep with a note from Elisabeth explaining that she couldn’t take care of the baby, to hide his actions from Rosemarie. Rosemarie and Josef were allowed to keep the children as their own because officials never questioned the children’s appearance and assumed that they were their biological grandparents.
It’s unclear how long Josef Fritzl intended to hold Elisabeth ca*ptive in the basement. He succeeded in keeping her behind bars for twenty-four years, and it’s unclear how long he planned to keep her there. But in 2008, one of the kids in the basement became sick.
Elisabeth’s Escape From Cap*tivity
Kerstin, Elisabeth’s daughter, became seriously ill and pleaded with Josef to let her get medical help. Josef reluctantly agreed, and after explaining Kerstin’s condition with a note from her mother, he called for an ambulance.
After interviewing Kerstin for a week and requesting information from the public, the police became suspicious of Josef and decided to reopen the investigation into Elisabeth Fritzl’s disappearance. They found discrepancies when they examined the letters Elisabeth had purportedly left for the Fritzls.
When Josef let Elisabeth out of the cellar on April 26, 2008, it was her first time outside in twenty-four years. She went straight to the hospital to see her daughter, but when she arrived, the staff became suspicious and called the police.
Later that evening, Elisabeth Fritzl was arrested by the police and interrogated regarding her daughter’s condition and Josef’s account. Elisabeth disclosed the entire details of her 24-year incarceration after the police assured her that she would never have to see her father again.
She revealed that she had given birth to seven children while being held ca*ptive in a basement by her father. Elisabeth disclosed that Josef was the biological father of all seven children and that, before raping her, he would force her to watch pornographic movies in the basement at night. She also revealed that the abuse began when she was just eleven years old.
In March 2009, Josef Fritzl was convicted on several counts after a trial and given a life sentence in a mental health facility.