New incest case with Fritzl echoes shocks Austrians

The house in St Peter am Hart, Austria, where police are investigating allegations that a man imprisoned his two mentally retarded daughters and sexually abused them Police are investigating the alleged abuse at a house in the village of St Peter am Hart

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Police in Austria have arrested a man suspected of imprisoning and sexually abusing his two daughters in his village home over 40 years.

The man, now 80, denies the abuse, which allegedly began when one girl was aged 12 and the other four.

Police say the case was reported in May, when the daughters escaped after one reportedly knocked over the father as he tried to rape her.

Now aged 53 and 45, they were both found to have "mental deficiencies".

Austria's Die Presse newspaper says there are echoes of another Austrian case, that of Jozef Fritzl, who is serving a life sentence for imprisoning and raping his daughter, fathering seven children with her.

There was no mention of any children being fathered in the new case.

'Threatened with pitchfork'

A social worker found the alleged abuser who had been lying on the floor for two days, incapacitated by his fall.

He received hospital treatment but is said to be mentally alert, and on Thursday he was arrested and moved from a nursing home to prison.

He is suspected of imprisoning, beating and sexually abusing his daughters in the village of St Peter am Hart, near the north Austrian town of Braunau.

Police believe he repeatedly threatened to kill them with a pitchfork and a stick.

The women were apparently allowed limited contact with the outside world but intimidated into not speaking about their alleged ordeal.

They were kept in the kitchen and made to sleep on a bench.

They are now receiving help from the authorities.

The mother of the house, who died three years ago, was allegedly also abused.

Residents of St Peter am Hart spoke of their shock at the news of the alleged abuse to the Austrian newspaper Krone.

"It is appalling that a person could do such a thing," said one 83-year-old man.

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