IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Police: Austrian abused daughters for 40 years

Austrian police arrested an elderly man Thursday that they suspect imprisoned, beat and sexually abused his two mentally handicapped daughters over a 40-year period.
Image: St. Peter am Hart
A cameraman shoots the entrance to the house in St. Peter am Hart, Upper Austria, Wednesday, Aug. 24, where police are investigating allegations that a man imprisoned his two mentally retarded daughters and sexually abused them for 41 years.Rudolf Brandstaetter / AP
/ Source: Reuters

Austrian police arrested an elderly man Thursday that they suspect imprisoned, beat and sexually abused his two mentally handicapped daughters over a 40-year period.

The 85-year-old Austrian, from a leafy village in the north of the Alpine republic, kept the women locked in a small kitchen with only a narrow wooden bench as a bed, police said.

"Both women have mental deficiencies and suffered permanent beatings and violence," said Hermann Feldbacher, a spokesman for the police department of the province of Upper Austria.

"They became dependent on their father and were so withdrawn and mentally disabled that they couldn't cope on their own and were unable to leave the house unless he wanted this."

He kept them confined to one room in their large wood-paneled family house and also abused his wife in a similar way, police said. She died in 2008.

Daughters repeatedly threatened
The man faces charges of rape and other sexual offences, abusing or neglecting minors and defenseless people, threatening behavior, coercion, and causing bodily harm, Upper Austria police chief Alois Lissl told the national news agency APA.

Authorities said the man had denied all charges.

Police said the man, who was not named, repeatedly threatened to kill his daughters, now aged 53 and 45, and subdued them with weapons. Apart from wielding a gun, he also beat them with a cane and a pitchfork, according to their accounts.

Police said he abused his daughters from 1970 to May 2011 in St Peter am Hart, a village of 2,400 people near the German border.

Reminiscent of earlier cases
The description had echoes of the Josef Fritzl incest case in 2008 that rocked Austria and drew international outrage. Fritzl fathered seven children with his incarcerated daughter before being imprisoned for life in 2009 aged 74.

It was also reminiscent of the kidnapping of Austrian schoolgirl Natascha Kampusch, who escaped from her captor in 2006 after being held for eight years in a basement. Her abuser killed himself shortly after her escape.

Police said they were still investigating whether the women in the latest case had been mentally disabled all their life or whether their condition could be a result of what they lived through.

"It seems possible that after 40 years of abuse that they suffered psychological effects but it could also be that someone who is already mentally disabled is the ideal victim for abuse," Feldbacher added.

The man banned his daughters from having "any social contact," police said. The women are being housed in a care shelter and receiving psychiatric treatment.

The details only became public now because of an investigation by a provincial newspaper.

The sisters were discovered in May when the father tried to rape the elder daughter and she fought back, causing him to fall to the ground, police said. A social worker found the injured father two days later and reported the alleged abuse to police.

He is now bedridden in hospital but "mentally active" for his age, police said. APA said he would be transferred soon to a temporary prison and legal proceedings had begun.