15 06 2008

Case of Italian woman locked up by family for 18 years draws parallels with Austria abuse

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press

June 14, 2008

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/06/14/europe/EU-GEN-Italy-Captive-Woman.php

Rome: The case of a woman whose family allegedly kept her locked in a room in their house in southern Italy for 18 years drew parallels in the Italian media on Saturday with abuse cases that have surfaced recently in neighboring Austria.

Media reported shocking details of the life of the 47-year-old woman, who was freed on Friday by police from a room in her family’s home, allegedly because she had become pregnant out of wedlock.

The woman was in the psychiatric ward of a Naples hospital Saturday, the ANSA news agency reported.

Police arrested her brother, a farmhand, and sister, who worked in a nursery school, and put her ailing, widowed, 80-year-old mother under house arrest. The three were being investigated on suspicion of mistreatment and kidnapping.

Police said an anonymous tip led them to the house, along a country road on the outskirts of the rural town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, near Naples. The La Stampa daily said the tip came from a neighbor who complained of the stench coming from the room where the woman was held.

The Carabinieri paramilitary police said in a statement that the woman, whom they did not identify, had been locked up in the room since 1990 because of the pregnancy and that she was kept in “indescribable” conditions.

Italian TV showed the room with a bed with soiled sheets, a filthy toilet and sink, as well as plastic bottles of water and tin bowls used to bring food to the woman.

Police said the woman’s son, now 17, was living with relatives and did not know about his mother.

The Corriere della Sera and La Stampa dailies compared the story to the cases of Josef Fritzl — accused of fathering seven children with a daughter he held captive underground for 24 years in the family’s home west of Vienna — and of Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl abducted at age 10 and held in an underground cell for 8 1/2 years by her kidnapper.

Police were seeking the man who fathered the child, in the hope that he could help clarify whether her current psychiatric problems predated her forced segregation in the home or were caused by it, ANSA said.

Every so often in Italy, reports surface of families keeping mentally or physically disabled relatives segregated in their homes, particularly in small towns in less developed regions.

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