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Eldest child in Austria incest case rejoins family

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By Alexandra Zawadil, REUTERS

ZEILLERN, Austria (Reuters) - The eldest child of an incestuous relationship between Austrian Josef Fritzl and the daughter he confined for 24 years has been reunited with her family after recovering from an artificial coma, doctors said.

Doctors also said on Wednesday the whole family -- Fritzl's daughter Elisabeth and the six surviving of seven children she bore him while locked in a cellar -- had been moved into a house on hospital premises to promote a normal living environment.

Fritzl, 73, in investigative custody since the case was exposed in April, marooned Elisabeth, now 42, in a windowless basement under his house in the central town of Amstetten -- a marathon, bizarre ordeal that scandalized the world.

"The reunion of (Elisabeth's eldest daughter) Kerstin with her family a few days ago was a moving moment, and for us the surprising recuperation of Kerstin was a great relief," Berthold Kepplinger, director of the central Austrian hospital where Fritzl's victims have been treated, told a news conference.

Kerstin was expected to make a "full recovery", he said.

Kerstin, 19, who was placed into an artificial coma after she suffered cramping fits due to oxygen deficiency and kidney problems, opened her eyes on May 15. After therapy to restore mobility, she rejoined her family on Sunday, doctors said.

Albert Reiter, the family's doctor, glowingly described how he was able to escort Kerstin into her new home.

"It was an extraordinary moment for me last Sunday when Kerstin, holding my arm, and I were able to walk through the door into a new home, crossing the threshold into a new life," Reiter said.

"The entire family is very happy that they are all together for the first time," said their lawyer, Christoph Herbst.

Three of the seven children of the incestuous liaison, the youngest of whom is now aged five, were incarcerated with their mother, while another three were raised by Fritzl and his wife Rosemarie as their own. One child died shortly after birth.

Prosecutors are investigating Fritzl for coercion, rape, incest and the death of the baby, though he has not been charged. Police say he has admitted incarceration and incest.

Rosemarie is not under suspicion and is with the rest of the family at the residence on the hospital grounds in Amstetten.

The cellar victims are receiving further therapy there as well as schooling and other guidance to start preparing them for life in the outside world.

The case came to light two months ago after Kerstin fell seriously ill and was brought to the hospital by Fritzl.

Herbst said Elisabeth did not plan to discuss the case in public and urged a curious international media to let the family build a normal life in priv


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