Josef Fritzl, the Austrian who held his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and raped her thousands of times, boasted that he was "world famous" and claimed he felt "love" for his victim yesterday in his first interview since his imprisonment more than a year ago.
Fritzl, 75, made his remarks to reporters from Germany's mass circulation Bild newspaper. The reporters spent over an hour with Fritzl inside Austria's top-security Stein prison, where he is being held with 89 other inmates in a section for mentally abnormal criminals. Dressed in a grey patterned flannel shirt, jeans and sandals, he shook hands with the reporters and introduced himself by saying: "Josef Fritzl, good day." Then he added: "But you know me – I am world famous!"
Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment in March last year after being convicted of rape, slavery, imprisonment and negligent homicide. He kidnapped his daughter, Elisabeth, when she was 16 and held her in a purpose-built cellar beneath his home in the Austrian town of Amstetten.
During her 24-year imprisonment, Elisabeth Fritzl, now 43, was raped more than 3,000 times. She gave birth to seven children. One of them died as a result of breathing difficulties shortly after birth. Fritzl incinerated the body in a stove to destroy the evidence.
Fritzl broke down and wept, subsequently confessing to his crimes after his daughter confronted him in a closed court session during his trial. He said he felt nothing but remorse for what he had done.
However, Bild's reporters concluded after their prison interview that Fritzl remained an incorrigible criminal who lacked insight into his crimes. The reporters said he had built a wall around himself to keep out the truth.
Bild's reporters also tried to ask him how he felt about what he had done. At first, he insisted: "I don't want to talk about that." Then they asked him: "What do you feel about your daughter who you chained to a bed?" Fritzl mumbled the word "love" to indicate his feelings.
"We reporters were left speechless," said Bild. "But then Fritzl went on to talk about his wife as if he were a completely normal husband," the newspaper added.
"I wrote her eight letters, but I never got an answer," Fritzl said of his wife, Rosemary, who divorced him after his conviction. "My dream is that I will get out of here alive. I want to look after my wife again because she was always loyal to me."
None of Fritzl's 13 children, who include six born in his cellar, have chosen to visit him since his imprisonment. Bild said that part of his fantasy was his insistence that the authorities were deliberately preventing his children from visiting him.
Elisabeth Fritzl is trying to build a new life for herself and her children. She lives with them in a house at a secret location near Amstetten. She is also reported to have begun a relationship with one of the security guards who watch over her and her family.
Her father spoke about his humdrum existence in Stein prison, where he inhabits an 11.5 square metre cell overlooking surrounding vineyards. He is awoken at 5.30am, showers, exercises, then cleans prison floors. During his hourly walks in the prison yard, he is always guarded by two warders because of fears that fellow inmates will attack him.
He grows tomatoes and peppers in his cell and spends much of the time watching television. He said his favourite programme was Charlie Sheen's comedy series Two and a Half Men. "The small boy reminds me of my son," Fritzl said.
"It loosens me up and makes me laugh. Being dead sad all the time destroys the soul," he added.