The wife of an Austrian man accused of holding their daughter captive for 24 years fought to keep the troubled family together but never kne...


The wife of an Austrian man accused of holding their daughter captive for 24 years fought to keep the troubled family together but never knew their child was in a soundproofed cellar beneath the apartment, the wife's sister said. Josef Fritzl's sister-in-law provided intimate details of the oppression inside the Fritzl home, describing him as a "tyrant."

Christine R. painted the most complete picture to date of her sister Rosemarie and her belief that daughter Elisabeth ran away from home as a 17-year-old to join a cult. That was about six months before police say she was locked into the windowless cellar.

"When he said it was black, it was black, even when it was 10 times white," said the woman, who was interviewed Saturday evening at her home in Austria. "He tolerated no dissent.
"Listen, if I myself was scared of him at a family party, and I did not feel confident to say anything in any form that could possibly offend him, then you can imagine how it must have been for a woman that spent so many years with him," she said.

Josef Fritzl is accused of concocting the cult story and even impersonating Elisabeth in a phone call to convince his wife of its truth. He is also accused of forcing his daughter to write letters that were used to explain the three children apparently found at their doorstep.
The sister said Rosemarie focused on her family with even greater effort after her husband was jailed for "a year and half" in connection with what Christine R. said was a 1967 rape conviction. She did not provide more information.
The Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten daily on Saturday printed an excerpt of what it said was a 1967 court record found in the state archives in Linz, in which a Josef F. was accused of breaking into the apartment of a 24-year-old nurse and raping her.

She said her sister reacted with "shock" but believed that "everyone makes a mistake" and focused on keeping her family healthy. "You can surely imagine that a woman in such a situation would have been utterly broken and shocked over something like this," Christine R. said.
As time went on, the relationship between Fritzl and his wife soured, the sister said.
"As far I know no sex took place in recent years," Christine R. said. "I believe it was because of his prior conviction, and because my sister had been getting bigger. And in any case he never liked fat women."

Still, Christine R. said there were no warning signs that something was disturbing about the relationship between the father and Elisabeth, whom police say may have been sexually abused when she was as young as 12. "He was just as strict with her as he was to every other child," Christine R. said. "There was nothing in particular that could lead you to say he was more intimate with her. From the child as well it never came out. She never confided in anyone."
Authorities first began to unravel the complex story on April 19, when Elisabeth's eldest daughter was admitted to a hospital suffering from an unidentified infection.

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