Fritzl: I wish my victims can somehow forget me

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Josef Fritzl has said in an interview given from his prison cell how being confronted in court by the testimony of the daughter he imprisoned and raped for 24 years caused him to admit for the first time just how severely he had harmed her.

The 73-year-old Austrian said he planned to write a book to explain to Elisabeth Fritzl his motives for keeping her as a sex slave in a squalid dungeon beneath the family home; along with three of the seven children he fathered by her.

Friztl, who was last week sentenced to life imprisonment in a top-security mental hospital, had watched 11 hours of videotaped testimony in which Elisabeth, 42, detailed the ordeal he had put her and her children through.

When her evidence ended, he turned around to find she had been smuggled into the closed courtroom and was looking him in the eye. He had not seen her since she had been freed from the cellar in Amstetten last year. Visibly shocked, he gave a full confession to the court the next day.

"I had such a strange feeling which I can hardly describe but when she was there I can only say I felt somewhat different, knowing she was in the vicinity," Fritzl said in the interview, given to his lawyer from his prison cell in Vienna. It has been published in an Austrian magazine, News.

"After that, I want only the hardest punishment. Until the end. As I noticed that she was here, in the court room, and I finally turned, into the auditorium and looked and saw her myself, I was suddenly so ashamed," he said.

"I could hardly bear hearing what she was saying. I wanted the hardest punishment."

Fritzl had denied charges of enslavement and the murder of one of Elisabeth's children, a twin boy who died of breathing difficulties shortly after birth in 1996. He changed his pleas, and was convicted by the jury of incest, false imprisonment, coercion, enslavement and murder.

"I would like to write a sympathetic book. Not for the public, only for her. I will try to explain why I acted in such a horrible way," he continued.

"I wish nothing more than that my victims can somehow forget me and what they experienced from me."

Fritzl also expressed a wish that psychiatrists probe his "sick soul" and use their findings in the rehabilitation of his victims.

"I tried to make life in the cellar as pleasant as possible for my second family – and in the course of the years, a partnership between my daughter and myself," he added.

"But I deserved nothing better. I do not deserve indulgence. I knew I had to confess everything, I could not varnish over the truth any longer, before anyone. I understood, finally, what suffering I brought to my family."

Fritzl is on suicide watch, but told his lawyer he did not intend to try killing himself. He has been diagnosed with a severe personality disorder and prison officers have said his mental state has deteriorated since he was sentenced.

Fritzl will probably be transferred to Wien-Mittersteig, an institution in Vienna for mentally abnormal prisoners, within the next six weeks. He will undergo assessment for therapy, after which he is likely to go to a prison specialising in the treatment of sex offenders.