In a case which is being described as "Italy's Fritzl", a 64-year-old man who allegedly imprisoned and sexually abused his daughter for 25 years has been arrested and is in jail in Turin awaiting trial.
His 41-year-old son, who at his father's instigation is said to have imprisoned and raped four daughters of his own in the same apartment, has also been charged and is being held in remand.
The case, in some respects worse than the Austrian horrors, was only revealed to the media by prosecutors in Turin this week and has caused widespread shock in Italy.
The names and other details of the victims and alleged culprits were withheld to protect the women and children involved, as they start new lives in protected communities.
The accused, a scrap metal dealer who police identified as "Marcello", a migrant to the north of Italy from the Foggia district of Puglia, on the heel of the Italian boot, bought a large flat with the compensation he received after a traffic accident and lived there with his 10 children.
With the apparent silent complicity of his wife and other children, Marcello's abuse of his daughter, referred to as "Laura" in the Italian media, is alleged to have begun when she was only nine, and continued until she was 34. "It seems that in this family there was a sort of right of droit de seigneur of the father over the daughter," a Turin judge, Piero Forno, told journalists.
"Laura never had a life of her own, she had no friends and only attended school until she was in her early teens after which she was permanently locked up at home."
Twice Laura managed to escape. The first time was in 1994, when she managed to break out and sought shelter with an uncle and aunt.
But her father tracked her down and took her back, reporting the relatives to the police and claiming falsely that they had abused her. Laura's story of abuse at her father's hands was rejected.
"The prosecutor appointed a psychiatrist to check the truth of what she had said," Judge Forno continued. "The psychiatrist pointed out her limited intelligence and concluded that she had invented everything."
After another 15 years of captivity she found herself back in the police station, this time with her father, to tell the police her brother Giovanni had locked her up and abused her for 15 days.
The extra horror of "Italy's Fritzl" is that it was not only the father who is alleged to have dedicated himself to raping and tormenting his daughter, but the son who allegedly aped his behaviour with daughters of his own. The case has five alleged female victims. Besides 34-year-old Laura they are aged 20, 18, nine and six.
Police discovered this additional dimension to the case after they concluded that Laura's story of being locked up by her brother did not ring true. They installed bugging equipment in the family's flat and discovered that Giovanni was routinely abusing his four daughters. The two men have been charged with rape, family abuse and obscene acts .
The case carries chilling echoes of that of Josef Fritzl, the 73-year-old Austrian who was last week sentenced to life in prison for enslaving and raping his daughter Elisabeth in the cellar of the family home for 24 years. A German lawyer said yesterday he planned to prosecute Fritzl's wife, Rosemarie and his eldest son, saying he was convinced both must have realised the so-called "Incest Monster" kept his daughter prisoner.
The lawyer, Klaus Groth said he had lodged an application to prosecute the two Fritzl family members with the Vienna state prosecutor. "A crime like this cannot simply be covered up for 24 years," he said.
Fritzl was ordered to spend the rest of his life in a top-security mental institution after he was convicted of imprisoning his daughter in a windowless cellar and raping her an estimated 3,000 times.
Fritzl kept up the appearance of a "normal" life upstairs where he brought up three of the children born in the cellar with his wife Rosemarie together with the children he had with her.
Dr Groth insisted Rosemarie and her eldest son must have known about Fritzl's cellar. "Both must been aware of it because it took a long time to build it and a lot of noise and dirt was involved," he said
Rosemarie Fritzl has denied that she knew about the cellar. However, Austrian authorities have never subjected her to a full legal investigation. The possibility that she knew, and suggestions that Austrian social services failed to investigate Fritzl properly, are the two main questions surrounding the case that have not been answered.
Austrian state prosecutors insisted that police investigations had provided no indication Fritzl's wife or family members had been aware of his crimes before he was caught and arrested in April last year.
He fathered seven children with Elisabeth, one of whom died shortly after his birth in the cellar. Fritzl was also convicted of murder for failing to call a doctor to help the ailing baby boy.Reuse content