Thursday, 19 March 2009

Libby Purves: Josef Fritzl is the limit, the death of hope

It is a disconcerting moment when your liberal conscience hits the buffers and you are consumed by pure rage and hatred for a stranger. I supposed that I had typically modern, moderate, evolved ideas about civilisation and justice; I support prison reform, believe in the possibility of rehabilitation, am glad to live in a society whose criminal justice system takes account of serious mental illness.

Yet when those beliefs come up against Josef Fritzl, I and many other women I talk to find that every ideal goes up like straw, destroyed in the heat of pure, unadulterated hatred.

Intellectually, I am glad he has had a trial and a defence lawyer to speak for him. Emotionally - and it is real emotion - I want him dead. No, worse than dead: tormented for life, not snugged down in some cosy mental hospital but imprisoned, humiliated, preferably flogged, confronted daily by what he did. I can raise no enthusiasm for the “suicide watch” he is on, and would blame his guards not one bit if they turned away to eat their sandwiches. Nor am I glad a psychiatrist has been standing by to cheer him up in the gaps during his trial.

I do not believe, as he would like us to, that the experience of watching the video evidence from his daughter was punishment enough, and made him realise “for the first time” what his “unfulfilled needs” forced - ha! forced! - him to do. I think that is a load of self-serving hooey. Read more
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