She pulled back the lid of the brown cardboard box, and invited the jurors to take a sniff at the objects inside. It was, said Christiane Burkheiser, a chance for the jury to experience for themselves the rancid stink that pervaded every inch of the underground prison beneath the family home in Amstetten, west of Vienna, where Josef Fritzl held his daughter for 24 years and allegedly raped her repeatedly.
It was one of the more dramatic moments of the opening on Monday of the long-awaited trial of the Austrian electrical engineer. No one in the public gallery could see what was in the box — children’s toys, books, clothing perhaps — but the crumpled looks on the jurors’ faces left little to the imagination.
The state prosecutor had felt the full impact of the cellar prison when she visited it herself.
“I’ve seen the cellar dungeon twice,” Burkheiser said. “It has a morbid atmosphere, which starts with having to crawl in on your hands and knees through the 83cm entranceway. And it’s sinister. It’s really bad. It’s incredibly damp, a damp that creeps into you after just a few minutes,” she said.
Fritzl sat listening impassively on a suede-upholstered chair, wearing grey trousers and a black-and-white check jacket that was slightly too large for him.
Minutes earlier he had shuffled into the St Polten district court, flanked by six police officers and clutching tightly at a royal blue folder to shield his face from the clicking cameras.
The 73-year-old looked a shadow of his former self as he walked across the creaking oak floor. Gone were his healthy suntan and the confident gait shown in video footage of him on holiday or in snapshots enjoying barbecues in the garden — while his daughter, and the offspring he fathered during years of sexual abuse, languished beneath his feet.
Fritzl refused to answer the questions fired at him by two Austrian reporters.
“If you had your chance again, would you do it all the same way?” one reporter asked, provoking nervous laughter from the public gallery.
Fritzl kept his shield in place, although at times he was seen to apparently grin as his grey moustache twitched behind the folder. When he sat after cameras had been ordered from the court, he placed the file on the table in front of him and held his hands to the side of his head like blinkers.
As Burkheiser, for 25 minutes, laid out her emotional arguments in the small courtroom, sometimes using a laser pointer to indicate masking tape she had stuck to the walls of the wood-paneled courtroom to illustrate the narrowness of entrances, the low heights of ceilings that Elisabeth and her children had had to endure.
The space constraints and the damp were, she said, minor compared with the other hardships and sufferings. For years Elisabeth had had no sink, no warm water, no daylight. She had “got her air from the cracks in the walls.” Sometimes she went without light for days at a time — “no lamp, not even a torch or candles.” And there were also the repeated rapes.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and