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Father 'abused captive daughters'

An 80-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of locking up his two mentally disabled daughters in a small room in an Austrian village for 41 years and beating and sexually abusing them.

The father, who had been living in an old people's home, is suspected of assault, torture or neglect of defenceless individuals, threat to life or physical condition, rape and other sex crimes.

Police official Alois Lissl said the man from the village of St Peter am Hart, will be questioned by an investigative judge within the next 48 hours, who will decide whether to keep him confined.

The man's daughters - now 53 and 45 years old - have accused him of repeatedly raping them at their home between 1970 and May 2011.

The women said their father repeatedly warned he would kill them if they resisted, occasionally threatening them with firearms, said Lissl. They also said that their mother, who died several years ago, was also repeatedly abused by the suspect.

The father has denied the accusations, said local police commander Martin Pumberger. Police have not named him or the alleged victims.

The Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten newspaper reported that the women escaped from their father's custody when he fell and was unable to get up after the older daughter pushed him during an attempted rape. It said the victims were also beaten with a stick and a pitchfork.

It was unclear why it took for so long for the allegations to surface.

Police were initially quoted as saying the daughters did not tell anyone about the alleged abuse until weeks after their escape. But authorities later said that a social worker who discovered the father two days after he fell went to police shortly after with her suspicions. The man was moved to the home after he was found.

The allegations evoke chilling parallels to the case of Austrian Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in a windowless cellar for 24 years and repeatedly raped her, fathering her seven children. Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment two years ago for that crime and for responsibility in the death of one of the children.