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Fritzl daughter finds love with her bodyguard

42-year-old incest victim's relationship may help her recovery, psychologists say

The Austrian incest victim Elisabeth Fritzl is reported to have begun an affair with one of her bodyguards.

It will be Ms Fritzl's first normal relationship with a man since her release from the windowless cellar in which her father imprisoned and repeatedly raped her for a quarter of a century.

The Austrian online newspaper oe24 said the 42-year-old woman had started a relationship with a man identified only as Thomas W, and the couple were now living together. "She is head over heels in love," the paper reported.

Ms Fritzl's lover is said to be several years younger than her and was employed by the AST security company, assigned to protect the cellar family after their release last year. "They are a couple. He never leaves her side," the newspaper quoted one witness as saying.

The newspaper claimed the relationship had already been of huge psychological benefit to Ms Fritzl, who only experienced a few teenage flings when she worked as a waitress, before she was kidnapped by her father, Josef, at the age of 18 and locked up in the cellar beneath his home.

Ms Fritzl is now reported to have felt well enough to discontinue her regular sessions with a psychiatrist and had even successfully completed a driving test, the paper said.

Roderick Orner, a British consultant psychologist and an authority on trauma, said yesterday that it was normal for victims to start intimate and socially supportive relationships because they needed to build up their trust. "Providing the relationship is monitored by an expert, it can be very positive and we should welcome it," he said.

However he added that trauma victims also suffered from "attachment difficulties" and that not infrequently they found themselves unconsciously entering into a new relationship in order to repeat past trauma experiences. "This is why they will need professional advice and support," he explained.

When she emerged from her incarceration, Ms Fritzl was reported to be ashen-faced from lack of sunlight and to have had black teeth because she hadn't seen a dentist for more than two decades.

The Austrian media has been full of reports about how Ms Fritzl was subsequently given a full makeover, had her teeth repaired, hair styled and given a complete new wardrobe.

Ms Fritzl gave birth to seven children during her imprisonment. All were born without medical help. Three of the children were sent upstairs after birth to live "normal" lives with Fritzl and his wife, Rosemarie. One son suffered severe breathing problems and died shortly after he was born and the three other children were forced to spend their lives underground in the basement. The eldest daughter, Kerstin, now 20, became seriously ill early last year and Fritzl finally agreed to take her to hospital because he feared she would die.

During Fritzl's trial in Sankt Poelte earlier this year, he admitted that seeing his daughter Elisabeth in court had made him realise his own guilt.

The 74-year-old subsequently confessed to all the charges against him including murdering one of their children through neglect. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.