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Incest father pleads guilty to all charges

IN a stunning turn of events, an Austrian on trial for imprisoning his daughter for 24 years and fathering her seven children pleaded guilty yesterday to all charges against him ?? including negligent homicide.

The move came after his daughter reportedly made an unannounced appearance in the courtroom.

Surprising even his lawyer, Josef Fritzl calmly acknowledged his guilt on the third day of a trial that has drawn worldwide media attention for its shocking allegations.

"I declare myself guilty to the charges in the indictment," Fritzl, 73, told a panel of judges, referring to what he called "my sick behavior."

Fritzl faces up to life imprisonment on the negligent homicide count, which he initially had contested along with an enslavement charge. Prosecutors also had charged him with rape, incest, forced imprisonment and coercion.

Asked by the presiding judge what had led him to change his mind, Fritzl said it was the testimony from his daughter Elisabeth. Fritzl, jurors and the rest of the court had viewed 11 hours of her videotaped testimony during closed-door sessions on Monday and Tuesday.

However, a person familiar with the trial said Elisabeth was in the courtroom on both days - suggesting her presence alone might have shaken Fritzl and prompted him to change his pleas.

Other officials would not confirm that Elisabeth was there.

Before the trial, prosecutors had said she would not be present and would testify only through her prerecorded remarks.

Now 42, Elisabeth was 18 when Fritzl imprisoned her in the cramped, windowless cell he built beneath the family's home.

The negligent homicide charge came for the death of an infant twin boy, Michael, born to Elisabeth in April 1996 who prosecutors say might have survived with proper medical care.


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