Father held daughter in cellar for 24 years

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The Independent Online

A woman has told police that she was held prisoner in a cellar for almost 24 years by her father, who repeatedly raped her and fathered her seven children.

Lower Austria police said in a statement that the 42-year-old woman had been missing since August 29, 1984 and was found by police in the town of Amstetten last night following a tip-off.

Franz Polzer, head of the Lower Austrian Bureau of Criminal Affairs, said the 73-year-old father had been taken into custody.

In a chronology of events outlined in a statement, police said the woman had apparently sent a letter a month after her disappearance asking her parents not to search for her.

During police questioning, she told police her father began sexually abusing her when she was 11 and locked her in a room in the cellar on August 28, 1984.

During the 24 years that followed, she said she was continually abused by her father and gave birth to six children, the statement said. In 1996, she gave birth to twins but one died several days later because it was not appropriately cared for. Her father had then apparently removed the corpse from the cellar and burned it, the statement said.

Police said the woman appeared "greatly disturbed" psychologically during questioning. She agreed to talk only after authorities assured her that she would no longer have to have contact with her father and that her children would be taken care of.

One of her children, a 19-year-old girl, is now in hospital the Lower Austrian town of Amstetten in very serious condition. Police said the father has been arrested but had not confessed.

Gerhard Sedlacek, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in St Poelten, said the surviving children - three boys and three girls - are aged between five and 20.

DNA tests are expected to determine whether paternity of the children.