THE secrets of Austria's 'house of horrors' were revealed to the world yesterday as a retired engineer confessed to keeping his daughter locked up in a cellar for 24 years and fathering seven children by her.
Josef Fritzl (73) admitted that he had dragged his daughter Elisabeth into the cellar in 1984, when she was just 19, where he had kept her ever since, together with three children who had spent their entire lives in the bunker until they were released last week and who, until yesterday, had never seen the light of day.
In what one Austrian newspaper described as "the worst crime of all time", Fritzl kept his captives under control by telling them they would die if anything ever happened to him.
He hoodwinked his entire family and the local authorities into believing Elisabeth had run away, despite having reportedly served a prison sentence in the 1960s for a previous sex offence.
The full extent of the ordeal suffered by Elisabeth and three of her children was graphically illustrated yesterday when police released photographs of some of the rooms inside the dungeon-like cellar in Amstetten.
The entrance was via a 3ft x 2ft steel door, concealed behind a cupboard in an underground workshop, which could only be opened from the outside or via a remote control Fritzl kept on him whenever he visited his secret children.
Inside are five tiny rooms, each just 5ft 6ins high, including two bedrooms, a bathroom and a storeroom with rubber-lined walls in which one of the children, who is epileptic, would be taken whenever he had a fit.
Police would not say whether the padded room was used for more sinister purposes, but Col Franz Polzer, leading the investigation, said the dungeon "contained a room which made it possible for him to continue his abuse over many years".
The cellar was originally just 3ft high, said police, but Fritzl enlarged it and added more rooms, with electricity and running water, over the years.
One poignant photograph shows how Elisabeth Fritzl and her children had tried to add some cheer to their bathroom by painting an octopus, a flower and a snail on the white-tiled walls.
Other attempts at bringing domesticity to the bunker include a toy elephant, a plastic flower, a hot water bottle and a child's wooden chair.
A narrow corridor off the bathroom leads to a bedroom where home-made decorations ,including paper stars, have been stuck on the walls.
Police are investigating how Fritzl was able to buy food and clothing for the four prisoners without his 66-year-old wife Rosemarie ever finding out.
Col Polzer said: "His wife didn't ever know what was going on because in this house he was very authoritarian and whatever he said was adhered to. He said you're not going into the cellar and everyone abided by that."
Elisabeth Fritzl gave birth to her first child, Kerstin, 19 years ago. Kerstin spent her entire life in the cellar together with Stefan (18) and Felix (5).
They finally saw daylight for the first time last week when Fritzl decided to reveal their whereabouts to police after taking Kerstin to hospital with a serious illness which has left her in a coma.
"It was a terrible scene down there," said one police source. "They had difficulty adjusting to the sunlight. They had never seen it before."
Until then, their only connection to the outside world had been a television. Felix was fascinated by cars he saw on TV and, said the source: "As he was driven to the hospital he was asking questions about the car and was very excited to be driven in one for the first time in his life."
Fritzl had raised three other children -- Lisa (16), Monika (14,) and Alexander (11) -- in his house, after claiming Elisabeth had left them on the doorstep as babies with notes he had, in reality, forced her to write, asking him to look after them.
A seventh child, a twin brother of Monika, died three days after he was born and his body was burned by Fritzl on a balcony at the house.
Elisabeth and her children are now all in psychiatric care. Police said Miss Fritzl was in "a serious condition" and was "a broken woman". (©Daily Telegraph, London)
Timeline of abuse that went on for 20 years
1977: Josef Fritzl allegedly begins abusing 11-year-old Elisabeth.
Aug 28, 1984: Elisabeth is drugged and taken to cellar beneath the family home.
Sep 1984: Elisabeth forced to write telling her parents to stop looking for her.
1988: First child, Kerstin, secretly born in cellar.
1989: Stefan born in cellar.
May 1993: Nine-month-old Lisa is "left" on doorstep with note asking Josef Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie to look after her.
Dec 1994: Ten-month-old Monika left on doorstep .
May 1996: Twin born but one dies. The body is allegedly burned by Mr Fritzl.
2002: Son Felix is born.
April 19, 2008: Kerstin is taken seriously ill and Mr Fritzl is forced to free her from the cellar for the first time to take her to hospital.
April 26: After Elisabeth tells police of her ordeal, her father is arrested.
April 28: Josef Fritzl confesses to imprisoning his daughter and fathering all of her children.