Where is Josef Fritzl now? What happened to Elisabeth and kids?

Austrian man Josef Fritzl kept his daughter, Elisabeth, a prisoner in his cellar for 24 years, before being captured – where is he now?

Fritzl repeatedly raped Elisabeth, resulting in a total of seven children.

In 2008, Elisabeth was freed at the age of 42 and has tried to rebuild her life with her children ever since.

This case shocked the world, and the Channel 5 documentary Fritzl: Surviving Evil, exposes the crimes and trial of monster Fritzl.

Elisabeth Fritzl smiles in old photograph
Elisabeth Fritzl was imprisoned in a cellar under her family home for 24 years (Credit: Channel 5)

Elisabeth ‘went missing’ in the 1980s

Josef’s wife Rosemarie Fritzl reported their daughter missing in 1984 after Elisabeth had run away from home a year earlier.

A month after Elisabeth was reported missing, Josef gave a letter to the police which stated she was staying with a friend and had grown tired of her family. Josef told police that he believed that she had joined a cult.

But in reality, Elisabeth was locked in a cellar in the basement of her family home.

Josef lured Elisabeth down there by asking for assistance carrying a heavy door. After Elisabeth held the door in place, Josef used an ethyl-soaked towel on her face to knock her unconscious and seal her into the cellar.

Elisabeth claimed that her father began sexually abusing her in 1977, when she was just 11 years old.

But in the cellar, Josef would visit her almost every day where he provided food and supplies – and repeatedly rape her.

Josef forced Elisabeth to write the letter that was given to the police that claimed she had run away from home.

Elisabeth gave birth to seven children in captivity

Elisabeth gave birth to seven children in total in the 24 years she was locked in the cellar.

In the first four years, Elisabeth was alone in the cellar before she gave birth to her first daughter, Kerstin.

When Elisabeth gave birth to her third child, Josef was worried that the baby was too loud so took it upstairs to the main house with his wife.

He forced Elisabeth to write a letter claiming that she was leaving the baby with her parents as the cult she was with didn’t approve of children.

Two more children were removed from the chamber and lived with Fritzl and his wife. The three children who lived with Josef Fritzl and Rosemarie were Lisa, Monika and Alexander.

Social workers regularly visited the home and did not hear or see anything to rouse their suspicions. Officials said that Fritzl plausibly explained that Elisabeth had left the children on her parents’ doorstep.

Inside the cellar the children had limited toys
The cellar was expanded by Josef Fritzl after Elisabeth gave birth to her fourth child (Credit: Channel 5)

Josef Fritzl case: Life in the cellar

One child died shortly after childbirth and three children lived with Elisabeth in the cellar – Kerstin, Stefan, and Felix.

The entrance to the cellar was concealed behind shelves and secured electronically with a code only Fritz knew.

The cellar was expanded from 380 to 590 square feet after the birth of her fourth child. Fritzl made Elisabeth and the children dig soil with their bare hands.

They had a television and some books and toys in the cellar. Fritzl told the victims that he would gas them if they tried to escape, although this was an empty threat and there was no gas supply.

Elisabeth tried to teach the children to read and write.

A tenant who rented a ground floor room in the house for 12 years claimed to hear noises from the basement, which Fritzl said were caused by the “faulty pipes” or the gas heating system.

Rosemarie believed that Fritz was working downstairs or away on business, and did not know Elisabeth was in the cellar.

Josef Fritzl case: How did Elisabeth get out of the cellar?

In April 2008, Elisabeth persuaded Josef to take 19-year-old daughter Kerstin to the hospital when she became ill and fell unconscious.

Elisabeth helped remove Kirsten from the cellar, the first time she had been outside in 24 years, where she was forced to return for a final week.

Kerstin was in kidney failure and Fritzl provided a letter which he claimed was from her mother.

Hospital staff began to find the story – and Fritzl’s behaviour – troubling and alerted the police on April 21, 2008.

On April 26, Elisabeth convinced Josef to be taken to the hospital to see Kerstin.

When police discovered that Elisabeth was in the hospital, they detained them.

There, Elisabeth told the story of her 24 years in captivity.

Fritzl, then 73, was arrested on the same day.

Josef Fritzl's mugshot
Josef Fritzl received life imprisonment for his crimes (Credit: Channel 5)

Where is Josef Fritzl now?

On March 19 2009, Josef Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment after a four-day trial.

He pled guilty to murder by the negligence of infant Michael. He was also charged with the enslavement, incest, rape, coercion and false imprisonment of Elisabeth.

Josef Fritzl is now 87 years old and lives in a special prison unit for the criminally insane in Austria’s Krems-Stein prison.

Fritzl is also reportedly suffering from dementia.

A fellow prisoner reportedly told local media: “Fritzl was and still is separated from everyone else.

“He has totally withdrawn himself and barely leaves his cell.”

British-born journalist Mark Perry interviewed Fritzl in his prison cell. He reported that: “He doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong at all.

“He thinks it’s a failure of justice and that he’s been wrongly locked up.”

The Channel 5 documentary on Fritzl – which is repeated tonight (Tuesday, February 21) also claimed that Josef Fritzl wrote letters to Elisabeth.

Krone also reported that Josef had changed his surname to Mayrhoff in May 2016.

Herbert and Ingrid Houska bought the Fritzl property in Amstetten and now rent it out as 10 flats.

The basement was covered in cement and is not in use.

In 2017, a property belonging to Fritzl was found with another secret basement.

It is believed other crimes did not take place down there, and it is not known if Josef had plans for its use.

A letter of thanks Elisabeth and the children wrote to Inspector Reitner
Elisabeth and the children wrote a letter of thanks to Inspector Willi Reitner (Credit: Channel 5)

What happened to Elisabeth and the children?

Elisabeth was given a new name and identity after the trial, and her children were offered the same.

She lives with her children in an area of Austria which can only be referred to by the country’s media as “Village X”.

Elisabeth and the children were given psychological support.

The three children who were known as the “upstairs children” believed their mother had abandoned them, but now live with Elisabeth.

Their home is guarded by CCTV and also has private guards.

It was also reported that Elisabeth began a relationship with one of her bodyguards.

The bodyguard is 23 years younger than Elisabeth and now lives with her and her children in their home.

Amstetten Police officer Willi Reitner claimed in the Channel 5 documentary that Elisabeth and her children are “doing well”.

Elisabeth has also reportedly passed her driving test and enjoys shopping.

Her mother Rosemarie reportedly lives in a different city, but remains in contact with Elisabeth and the children.

Read more: I Am Madeleine McCann girl timeline: Claims, evidence, DNA test demands and backlash

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Fritzl: Surviving Evil airs on Tuesday, February 21 at 10pm on Channel 5.

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