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Old 05-15-2008, 07:03 PM
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Austrian doctor relied on intuition, gut instinct to sleuth out dungeon builder

Josef Fritzl: Doctor's one-man campaign that exposed the truth

By David Hill in Amstetten

The Austrian doctor who helped expose the secret life of Josef Fritzl has admitted he had no idea what he would uncover when he started a one-man campaign to track down the mother of a seriously ill patient.

Dr Albert Reiterís refusal to believe Fritzlís lies about a bizarre sect led directly to the exposure of the plight of the Amstetten cellar family.

Speaking for the first time about his personal campaign, Dr Reiter said his suspicions were first aroused when a critically ill teenage girl was brought into the hospital by her grandfather.

The unconscious girl was immediately hooked up to life support.

Dr Reiter said: "Her grandfather came up with the story that he had found the girl on his doorstep.

"He said that she had been abandoned by the mother who was part of a bizarre sect.

"I did not like his tone and something did not seem right. What made me particularly suspicious was that he did not seem to think it important the answer any of my questions, simply demanding we make Kerstin better so that he could take her away again."

A closer examination of Kerstin, 19, revealed more mysteries.

The teenager had almost no teeth, and a letter apparently left by the mother in the girlís clothing did not fit with the grandfatherís claims that the mother was not concerned about her child.

"I could not believe that the mother of a seriously ill 19-year-old girl would simply load her off at the hospital and disappear. From the tone of the letter the mum had sent it was clear that she cared very deeply for her child."

As Kerstinís condition worsened the doctor decided to act outside of the medical sphere - and to start a one man campaign to track down the mother.

He said: "I was certain of only one thing, that the mother was the only one that could help.

"I contacted the grandfather again, and told him we desperately needed to speak to the mother.

"I was convinced she had information that was the key to the mystery illness. I could not understand why he was so reluctant to help, but he did agree."

The doctor alerted the hospitalís public relations department to notify all the local media, and even managed to get a photograph of missing mother Elizabeth Fritzl from her reluctant father, which was published in local media.

Because the appeal for help was a personal initiative from Dr Reiter, he included his personal mobile telephone number at the bottom of all the reports, asking for people to call him directly with information about the mother, or in the hope that Elizabeth would get in touch.

He said some people had been in touch backing up the story about the sect and gradually he had gathered together the full story built up by Josef Fritzl over the years to explain his daughterís disappearance, and the later return of three of her children.

Dr Reiter continued to pressure for answers and arranged for specialists to be sent to Amstetten from Vienna to look at the teenager.

As Kerstin battled for survival on the hospitalís life-support machine, a local television station agreed to include a short news item on the critically ill teenager and the mystery of the vanished mother, including an appeal for Elizabeth to get in touch, an appeal that she saw on her television in the cellar dungeon at Ybbstrasse 40 - together with a copy of a photo of her from 24 years before.

What she said to her father to persuade him to let her go is not known, but he agreed to let her out on the condition she not betray him.

Fritzl himself has admitted that at the age of 73 he was finding it harder to care for the cellar family, and had already made arrangements for them to be released in a few months anyway - on the condition they backed up his story about having escaped from a sect.

Kerstinís condition had forced him to rush matters, but he still hoped that his story would be believed.

In 24 years Elizabeth had only once been out of the cellar dungeon when she carried her delirious daughter to her fatherís car. A week later she made her second trip as she journeyed to the hospital, her only thoughts for her daughter.

Josef Fritzl thought he had prepared the ground well, but had reckoned without Dr Reiter.

He called in advance to warn the doctor, saying: "Elizabeth has returned. I am bringing her to the hospital and she wants to see her daughter. But we do not want any trouble, do not call the police."

The doctor immediately alerted the authorities. They arrested Fritzl and his daughter as they were walking from the hospital, separating the pair of them.

It was only then that they heard the full story from Elizabeth about her 24 year ordeal.

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