AMSTETTEN, Austria: DNA tests in Austria confirmed that Josef Fritzl fathered six children with a daughter he kept prisoner in a purpose-built cellar for nearly a quarter century.
As the stunned local community of Amstetten rallied around his traumatised victims, the 73-year-old Fritzl appeared in court Tuesday to be remanded in custody.
His daughter Elisabeth, 42, and her children were carefully shielded from public glare, undergoing psychiatric counselling to help them try to adjust after their unimaginable ordeal.
More than 200 people including dozens of youngsters quietly placed candles on Amstetten's rain-soaked main square late Tuesday as the town of 23,000 sought to cast off the notoriety brought to their doorstep by Fritzl.
"Shock, sadness, rage and perhaps also hatred have gripped us these last few days," pastor Peter Boesendorfer told those gathered.
"We must acknowledge that there is something in our town that we cannot comprehend," he said, calling on residents "to help and show solidarity so that a life will be possible" for the bewildered children and their scarred mother.
Investigators said DNA tests had shown Fritzl, a retired electrical engineer, was the father of six children born during Elisabeth's 24-year-long imprisonment below the pale grey house at Ybbstrasse number 40.
A seventh, a twin, died shortly after birth and Fritzl has told investigators he disposed the body in an incinerator in his building.
That admission could prove pivotal when the case comes to trial, with a prosecutor saying Fritzl would face a life sentence if found guilty of manslaughter, as opposed to shorter prison terms for rape or incarceration.
Psychologist Paulus Hochgatterer, who is helping to advise those who are counselling the family, said the three children Fritzl had kept underground were staying in a sequestered treatment container that could be locked from the inside.
Safely shielded from the media circus that has set up camp in Amstetten, he said their initial treatment could take several weeks.
"Only very gradually are they being exposed to the outside world," Hochgatterer said, adding that "given the circumstances, they're actually doing quite well."
Three children never left the cramped, dank warren where they were held captive and saw natural daylight for the first time when they were released this month.
Another three children were legally adopted by Fritzl and lived with him and his wife Rosemarie upstairs, entirely unaware of their siblings imprisoned below.
With the help of letters from Elisabeth, Fritzl apparently managed to convince his wife they had been left by their daughter outside their door.
The two sets of children are now tentatively beginning to get to know one another.
Two of the three who had spent all their lives underground "have a way of communicating that is anything but normal," added Berthold Kepplinger, director of the psychiatric clinic in Amstetten-Mauer.
The youngest child, five years old, seems most able to adapt to his new life and was excited about being able to ride in a car, his carers said.
Doctors would determine when police would be allowed to question Elisabeth Fritzl and the children, but that was unlikely to be for several days.
Local authorities said they had made all the necessary background checks for the adoptions of the three children.
Fritzl was reportedly convicted of attempted rape in the 1960s and of arson but the records were wiped after a period of time set by Austrian law.
Social services had made 21 documented calls to the house, as well as undocumented visits, during which Fritzl was usually absent, said the head of the social services in Amstetten, Hans-Heinz Lenze.
Nevertheless, social workers never noticed anything amiss.
Letters found with the babies explaining that their mother could not take care of them gave the police no reason to search the Fritzl house, Lenze added.
The district court in Amstetten, which must greenlight all adoptions, also insisted it had acted correctly.
"There weren't any doubts about his (Fritzl's) integrity. Why should I put the child in a foster home, when it could grow up in a family," court president Josef Schoegl told the Austria Press Agency.
Chief police investigator Franz Polzer said there was no sign that Fritzl's wife, who also had seven children with him, knew of the goings on in his locked dungeon.
"It would go against all logic that a mother of seven children would help the father of those children to look after seven more children whom he had fathered with his own daughter," Polzer said.
Nevertheless, police were trying to establish whether the man had accomplices who may have helped him build the cellar.