A verdict was handed down Thursday in the trial of Josef F., the Austrian man who kept his daughter Elisabeth in a cellar and raped her repeatedly. Josef F. fathered seven children with his daughter over the course of 24 years, including one who died shortly after birth.
With Elisabeth in the courtroom, a judge found the man guilty on all charges and sentenced him to spend the rest of his life locked up in a criminal psychiatric facility.
The three-day trial found Josef F. -- dubbed the "cellar incest monster" by the German-language press -- guilty on charges of murder, incest, enslavement and rape. The 73-year-old originally denied the charges of murder and enslavement, instead pleading guilty to incest and incarceration and "partially guilty" to the rape charge.
But after watching his daughter's videotaped testimony on Wednesday, Josef F. pled guilty to all charges. His daughter, now 42, was unmoved, and through her lawyer pressed for the maximum sentence. "What you just heard was no confession. He trivialized his crimes, and hopes that you'll believe him," said lawyer Eva Plaz. "Perhaps he's still angling for an early release from prison."
The court, apparently, didn't take the bait. The sentence takes effect next week.
The verdict came after a surprising turn the day before, when the accused changed his plea. "I declare myself guilty to the charges in the indictment," Josef F. told the court on Wednesday, the third day of the trial. The retired engineer is accused of keeping Elisabeth locked in a purpose-built dungeon in the cellar of his house in Amstetten.
Asked what had caused him to change his mind, F. replied: "The video testimony of my daughter." Elisabeth F., who is now 42, provided 11 hours of videotaped testimony to the court.
In pleading guilty to the murder charge, Josef F., who revealed his face for the first time in court on Wednesday after hiding behind a binder on the previous two days, accepted responsibility for the death in 1996 of his baby son Michael, who F. fathered with his daughter in the underground dungeon. Michael had breathing problems and died 66 hours after his birth. F. told the court that he had not let the baby die on purpose. "I don't know why I didn't help," he said. "I hoped that he would survive. I should have done something." Prosecutors said Michael might have survived had he received proper medical care.
F.'s defense lawyer Rudolf Mayer told reporters Wednesday he was "completely surprised" by his client's sudden change of heart, which had not been discussed with him. Mayer believed F. had been "shaken up" by Elisabeth's videotaped statement.
Psychiatrist Adelheid Kastner told the court Wednesday that F. had a serious personality disorder and would pose a danger to others if he was freed, despite his advanced age. Kastner said F. had a deep need to control people and knew what he was doing was wrong. The accused had a guilty conscience when he went to bed and when he woke up, she said. F. had said earlier this week that he had had a difficult childhood and referred to his own "sick behavior" at one point on Wednesday.
The case made headlines around the world in April 2008 when Josef F.'s crimes came to light after he allowed one of the children, who was seriously ill, to be taken to the hospital.
F. is accused of repeatedly raping his daughter in front of the children. According to police, DNA tests prove F. is the father of the six surviving children. Three of the children grew up in the underground prison and never saw the light of day until April 2008. F. raised the other three children in his house with his wife. He claimed Elisabeth, who he said had run away to join a religious cult, had left the children on his doorstep.
Elisabeth and the six children now have new identities and are living in a secret location.
-- dgs/agc/wire services