VIENNA — Austrian prosecutors investigating suspicions that an 80-year-old man sexually abused his two mentally disabled daughters for 41 years said Friday that no children were born of the alleged incestuous relationships.
The case has parallels to that of another Austrian, Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in a windowless cellar for 24 years and repeatedly raped her, fathering her seven children. Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment two years ago for that crime and for responsibility in the death of one of the children.
But state prosecutor Alois Ebner said that questioning of the 80-year-old's two daughters and other leads had not turned up any indications of offspring.
The man – from the Upper Austrian village of St. Peter am Hart – is suspected of assault, torture or neglect of defenseless individuals, threat to life or physical condition, rape and other sex crimes. He denies the allegations.
Despite being questioned weeks ago, he had been free and living in a senior citizens' home until police detained him Thursday. On Friday, an investigative judge ordered that he remain in custody at least until Sept. 9 pending continued investigations.
Police said the man's daughters – now 53 and 45 years old – have accused him of repeatedly raping them at their home between 1970 and May 2011. The women said their father frequently warned he would kill them if they resisted, occasionally threatening them with firearms and beating them with a stick and a pitchfork, police said.
They also said that their mother, who died three years ago, was repeatedly abused by the suspect.
Police have not named the man or his daughters. The nameplate on the family house identifies the owner only as "Wagner."
The house itself, a well-kept, two-story dwelling, stands at the end of a road on the village's outskirts, almost hidden from view by a large tree. The family had no immediate neighbors.
A village resident who refused to give his name said the father had worked as a road maintenance worker for the region before retiring. Others were even more reluctant to talk, with the most vocal muttering "leave me alone" when approached by a reporter.
The women told police that they escaped when their father fell and was unable to get up after the older daughter pushed him during the last attempted rape.
Authorities have given contradictory versions of why it took so long for the allegations to become public. First news of the case were published Thursday by local media – more than two months after the women said they escaped.
In the latest explanation on Friday, regional government politician Georg Wojak told reporters that the initial allegations of sexual abuse surfaced Aug. 8 when a social worker who discovered the father two days after he fell first went to police with her suspicions.
State prosecutor Ernestine Heger said the two women, who were already questioned by police, would now be interrogated by her office and that an expert opinion would be drawn up about how "meaningful" their testimony is.
Police and local media originally said the suspect had allegedly kept the victims locked in a tiny room of their home for 41 years, but later revised that version, suggesting they had limited freedom of movement, even though all three slept in one small room.
"They were seen in and around the house," local police commander Martin Pumberger told state broadcaster ORF. "But the daughters were prohibited from any and all social contact."
Pumberger said that the women's accusations "are believable," adding that they "are relieved that they were able to speak about their decades-long martyrdom."
AP Television News videojournalist Alex Schuller contributed from St. Peter am Hart, Austria.