What does a monster see when he looks in the mirror? Josef Fritzl

Josef Fritzl is now protesting about his portrayal in the media, saying his treatment of his offspring ‘could have been worse’

Astonishing to believe, but Josef Fritzl doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy. But then I dare say the same could be said of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and any number of Nazis, Colombian drug lords, Argentinian generals and serial rapists worldwide.

He has told German tabloid Bild (via his lawyer of course) that he deserves credit for taking his daughter/grand-daughter Kersten to hospital when she was sick, and has pointed out that he could have killed everyone in the cellar and: "Then there would have been none of this fuss". Lovely.

It ought to defy belief really, but it doesn’t. Anyone familiar with the Fred and Rosemary West case remembers that men (and women) without remorse are capable of fantastic amounts of self-deception.

Hitler had girlfriends, loved his dog, was charming to women, told great jokes and did impressions of Winston Churchill. And at the same time, he was capable of murdering literally millions of innocent people and plunging an entire continent into a maelstrom from which it still hasn’t fully recovered. He also murdered his first girlfriend when she tried to leave him (should’ve been a sign…).

Fred West, awaiting trial for the rape, torture and murder of at least 10 women, one of whom was his daughter, wrote a sickly tome about his equally murderous wife, entitled : "I was loved by an angel". He considered that all of his victims had it coming for ‘playing the loving lark’, and claimed that at least one of them – Lucy Partington – had been a willing participant. His eldest daughter stunned a courtroom into silence when she described how her mother and father had raped her in the cellar when she was eight and told her to be grateful for having such loving parents.

One parallel I note also with the Wests is that they also claimed that their daughter had run away. In their case, they said she’d become a prostitute in Leeds and was too ashamed to come home – an accusation that their son believed added terrible insult to injury, given that she was already buried in the garden (but, at least not in the Wests’ favourite site of the cellar, under the kid’s playroom). In Fritzl’s case, he claimed that Elizabeth had run away to join a cult and that she had abandoned her three children for him – the kindly old grand-dad – to look after. Now it appears that these children may have been freed for no other reason than that they were crying babies who might draw attention to his dungeon.

Well, every day in this case unfolds new and more terrible details, so I suppose it is just more wait and see – and hope. It is no compliment to say of Fritzl that at least he’s not as bad as Fred West. "What planet is he on?" my DH asked this morning. And the answer, sadly, is ours.

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