19 Mar 2009

Daughter's testimony made Fritzl change pleas

4:22 am on 19 March 2009

Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man accused of imprisoning his daughter and fathering her children, has changed his pleas to guilty on all charges.

Fritzl, 73, admitted rape, incest, murder and enslavement on Wednesday, telling the jury: "I plead guilty to all the charges in the indictment."

He initially admitted incest but denied two charges, including murdering one of the children, a boy, soon after his birth in 1996.

He locked his daughter Elisabeth in a cellar under his house for 24 years. He fathered seven children with her.

Asked by the judge what had caused him to change his plea, he replied: "My daughter's videotaped testimony".

"I'm sorry," he added.

The trial was expected to be completed on Thursday with sentencing the same day. The retired engineer would face life in prison for the death of the twin son through neglect.

Prosecutors said Fritzl repeatedly raped his daughter in front of the children marooned underground, using her as if she was his own property. The captive children had never seen daylight.

Fritzl entered the courtroom on Wednesday with his face uncovered, unlike the previous two days, shielded by 10 police officers.

The abuses came to light in April last year when Fritzl took 19-year-old Kerstin, the eldest child born below ground, to hospital when she was seriously ill.