23rd March, 2011
A man who raped his step-daughter 550 times and fathered eight children with her has been sentenced to 14-and-a-half years in jail.
Detlef Spiess, 48, who also sold his step-children to other men for sex, received the maximum prison term.
Spiess, dubbed the â€˜German Fritzlâ€™ after the Austrian father Josef Fritzl who imprisoned and raped his daughter in a home-made dungeon for 24 years, confessed to his crimes on the eve of his sentencing.
A heavy drinker who was in debt and on welfare, he slipped through the welfare net in his homeland to lead his family to a life of brutality and fear.
Prosecutors spoke of a mixture of guile and cunning that made him fool authorities all the time; he played the part of the concerned dad at parent teacher evenings at school and fooled hospital authorities into thinking he was the granddad of the children being delivered, not the father.
â€œIn Fluterschen, a hamlet of 750 people, he hid his monstrosities in plain sight,â€ said one prosecutor.
One of his last jobs – he never held them for long – was as a dishwasher in a kebab shop. There he sold his daughter Janine to the owner for sex. She was 17 at the time. He received Â£30 a time for the transaction.
His children feared and loathed him; among themselves they called him the â€˜fairy-tale tellerâ€˜ because he lied so much.
He had a long criminal record for minor offences before his secret life was discovered; petty theft, driving without a licence, driving drunk. While he moved about between low paying jobs, he lived mostly on state handouts.
Eerily, the people from the firms, and neighbours, who were quizzed by detectives after his arrest for incest all said the same thing; when he was out with the family he was the epitome of a loving father.
It was behind closed doors that Jekyll became Hyde, said police.
Violence, rape, psychological terror ruled in his home.
For 10 years he lived in the village with his second wife, 52, and up to 14 children – three from his wifeâ€˜s first marriage, four children he had with her and the seven he fathered with his stepdaughter. Like with Fritzl, whose daughter gave birth to seven children, one child died shortly after birth.
â€œWe often wondered why all the children looked like him,â€ a neighbour said after he went on trial. But like Fritzl, his crimes went undiscovered and unpunished for years.
His daughter, now 27, broken by fear, lied for him to the youth authorities, saying her five sons and two daughters were the offspring of another man.
â€œOur hands were tied,â€™ said district youth department leader Hermann-Josef Greb. â€œWe could do nothing when she said someone else was the father of these children, whatever the suspicions were.â€
It was when the stepdaughter found a farewell letter to her father from his other daughter in which she detailed years of abuse that she found the courage to go to the authorities in August last year and tell her tale.
Spiess will be separated from other prisoners in jail because of his crimes.