In August 1984, in Amstetten, Austria, Josef Fritzl asked his daughter, Elizabeth, for help installing a new door to their family home’s newly-renovated basement. When Elisabeth turned to leave, her father, Josef Fritzl, forced an ether-soaked cloth over her mouth until she lost consciousness. For the next 24 years, she was locked in that basement, starting at the tender age of 18 years old. Elisabeth endured unimaginable horrors during her captivity at the hands of her father. Now that she’s free, here’s what we know about Elisabeth Fritzl’s life.
A Quick Recap Of Her Horrifying Ordeal
On August 28, 1984, Elisabeth Fritzl went missing. Her mother, Rosemarie Fritzl, immediately filed a missing-persons report.
Elisabeth wasn’t seen or heard from for weeks until a letter arrived. In the letter, Elisabeth said that she was tired of her life at home and ran away. Her father, Josef, told police that she’d previously mentioned an interest in joining a religious cult. He said that this was his best guess as to where she’d gone.
Josef knew much more about her whereabouts than he let on, however. In fact, he was actually the one who wrote the letter supposedly from Elisabeth. He had her locked in the basement of his home.
Elisabeth Experienced Frequent Sexual Assault And Multiple Pregnancies During Her Captivity
For the first two days of Elisabeth’s captivity, she was unable to move, bound by an iron chain. On the second day, Josef began sexually assaulting her. This abuse would continue for the next two and a half decades. As a result, Elisabeth bore seven of her father’s children. One of the children died just after birth, and Josef threw the baby’s body in the incinerator.
Three of Elisabeth’s children remained in captivity with her in the cellar, never seeing daylight until their release. For the other three, Josef staged discoveries of the babies outside the house in the bushes or on the doorstep. He planted the babies with notes supposedly written by Elisabeth. They said that she couldn’t care for these children and that she wanted her parents to raise them for her. Those three children enjoyed the outside world while the others were stuck in the basement, fearing that the door was rigged to kill them should they make an attempt at escape.
Josef managed to keep Elisabeth and the children’s location a secret for all those years. He dictated notes for Elisabeth to write to her mother. He claimed that he was working when he spent time in the basement. To cover his tracks with the neighbors, he blamed any noises that emerged from the soundproofed cellar on noisy heating and pipes.
How She Got Finally Free
On April 26, 2008, when Elisabeth was 42, she finally got her freedom. Her 19-year-old daughter, Kerstin, became extremely sick. Because of the dire situation, Josef made the uncharacteristically merciful decision to drive Kerstin to the hospital. Shortly after, Elisabeth and her two sons saw Kerstin’s doctors on the news imploring that her mother come forward with information if there was any hope of saving her life.
Elisabeth begged her father to let her leave and go to Kerstin’s side. Josef had already been looking for a way out of the horrible situation he’d created, growing old and tired of leading his harrowing double life. He agreed to let Elisabeth go. Once she made it to the hospital, she told police that she’d give them the full story as long as they promised to keep her father away from her.
In 2021, Lifetime premiered an original movie based on the Fritzl case called Girl in the Basement.
Where Is Elisabeth Fritzl Now?
After Elisabeth’s release, Josef was immediately arrested. He is in prison, where he has been serving a life sentence since 2009.
Though Elisabeth is now a woman in midlife, the most recent known photograph of her was taken when she was 16. Authorities have gone to great lengths to conceal Elisabeth’s identity from the public in hopes of giving her the most normal life possible after the horrors she endured. She has taken on a new name since her release, and it has been alleged that she currently lives in an Austrian village referred to as “Village X” to keep its location hidden.
Elisabeth lives with her children, who are now all adults. They have all undergone therapy to work through their myriad traumas. Still, they sleep with their bedroom doors permanently open.
Security guards always patrol the two-story home, and it has constant CCTV surveillance. Though there is little public information about her post-imprisonment life, in 2019, reports claimed that Elisabeth and her bodyguard “found love.”