Once-captive family brought together

AMSTETTEN, Austria — Members of an Austrian family terrorized by decades of incest and imprisonment met for the first time at a clinic where psychiatrists are helping them recover, authorities said Tuesday.

Details of the emotional gathering emerged as police said DNA tests confirmed Josef Fritzl is the biological father of his daughter’s six children.

The retired electrician confessed Monday to imprisoning his daughter Elisabeth for 24 years in a warren of soundproofed cellar rooms, sexually abusing her, fathering seven children with her and discarding the body of an one, who died in infancy, in a furnace.

Three of the children were locked in the underground labyrinth with their mother for years and had never met their other siblings or grandmother, who lived upstairs.

Hospital officials said Elisabeth, five of the children and Fritzl’s wife Rosemarie spent their first moments together Sunday.

“It is astonishing how easy it worked that the children came together, and also it was astonishing how easy it happened that the grandmother and the mother came together,” clinic director Berthold Kepplinger said.

Now 42, Elisabeth was 18 when she was imprisoned in the secret annex her father built beneath his apartment in Amstetten, a working-class town 75 miles west of Vienna.

Under the circumstances, she and the children were doing “quite well” in the care of a team of specialists, Kepplinger said.

One of the children, a 19-year-old girl, was in critical condition and undergoing dialysis at another hospital, and was not part of the reunion, hospital officials said.

Forensics experts carted boxes of belongings Tuesday out of the Fritzl home and investigators said they were combing through his other properties but had found no other hidden rooms.

Fritzl, 73, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on rape charges, the most grave of his alleged offenses. However, prosecutors said Tuesday they were investigating whether he can be charged with “murder through failure to act” in connection with the infant’s death, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Fritzl’s lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said his client was under psychiatric care. Asked whether he showed any remorse, Mayer said: “I cannot say at this point.”

Fritzl “is really hit by this. He is very serious, but he is emotionally broken,” Mayer told the Associated Press.

However, prosecutor Gerhard Sedlacek said Fritzl was “calm, completely without emotion” when he was placed in pretrial detention Tuesday.

Austria is still scandalized by a 2006 case involving Natascha Kampusch, who was kidnapped at age 10 and imprisoned in a basement outside Vienna for more than eight years.

In an interview with Puls4 private television, Kampusch, now 20, expressed empathy for the Fritzl family’s ordeal and offered to help them financially.

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