He Raped His Cellar Daughter without Speaking to Her for 9 Years; Fritzl Hides His Face in the Dock as Incest Trial Opens

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Byline: DAVE HILL in Austria AND JUSTIN DAVENPORT

THE suffering, dread and sexual depravity of the "concrete kingdom" Josef Fritzl created in an underground dungeon were described to a court today.

The 73-year-old raped his daughter without saying a word to her for the first nine years of her 24-year imprisonment, it was revealed.

Elisabeth, who bore him seven children, was 18 in 1984 when she was lured into the dungeon he had built beneath the family home in the Austrian town of Amstetten. It is estimated she was raped 3,000 times. Her ordeal only ended last year with her father's arrest.

Fritzl, who went on trial today, covered his face with a folder as he was led into a courtroom in St Poelten near Vienna.

He faces life if convicted of murdering one of the children who died days after birth. He denied the charge today but "partially" admitted rape, understood to mean he is contesting the way the charge is worded. He pleaded guilty to incest and a charge of enslaving Elisabeth for most of her life.

Three of the children born in the cellar were raised above ground by Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie.

The three others, aged five to 19 when they were found, languished with their mother in windowless, soundproofed chambers.

Elisabeth has told police she was forced to give birth on a dirty mattress with just a secondhand book on child rearing to help her. Prosecutor Christiane Burkeheiser opened proceedings.

At one point she leaned towards Fritzl and demanded: "How could you do that to your own flesh and blood? " She said Elisabeth endured the first nine years of her captivity in a room 18 square metres in size. Looking at the four-man, four-woman jury, she told them: "That ' How could you do this to your own flesh and blood?'

Fritzl was ' absolute ruler of his hidden concrete kingdom' ...

' He kept his daughter in tiny cellar with no heating' ... is the same size as the jury box in which you are sitting." She used a laser pen to show the jury how low the ceiling was -- just five feet, meaning Elisabeth had to stoop all the time. Mrs Burkeheiser went on: " She had a small washbasin, no bath, no shower, often no heating.

" He would come and switch the lights off, rape her, often in later years in front of the children .

" For the first nine years he did not speak to her. There was no fresh air, there was only the walls to look at and the door. It was cold, it was damp. Bitingly cold in winter and boiling hot in summer." She described how Fritzl used his daughter " as a toy", adding: " He was the absolute ruler of his hidden concrete kingdom. He had complete control.

He decided what would be eaten and what medicines would be allowed downstairs.

" He would decide who could leave and how often the electricity was turned on. …