London, May 8 : The son-in-law of dungeon dad Josef Fritzl has described how his father-in-law, whom he had believed to be a "normal family man," kept his dual life under wraps with a string of lies.
Horst Herlbauer, who is married to Fritzl's second eldest daughter Rosemarie, 47, also spoke of the "mental torture and anguish" sparked by revelations that the beast fathered seven children by sex slave daughter Elisabeth.
"It's a terrible ordeal beyond words," the Mirror quoted him, as saying.
Horst revealed that he had frequently visited the house but "never had any reason" to suspect that his sister-in-law and three of her children were being held captive in an underground cellar.
Claiming that Fritzl seemed like a "normal dad and family man," Horst said he believed his story that Elisabeth had left home to live with a cult.
"We always believed Elisabeth had run away and not come back, everybody did," he said.
"That was the truth to us, and we didn't question it, even when some of her children appeared and were adopted into the family.
"Although Rosemarie left home with me more than 25 years ago, we went back for family occasions.
"But we never suspected anything was wrong and never had any reason to think anything had happened to Elisabeth. Nobody could have imagined what had really taken place. Josef seemed be a normal dad and family man.
"He was always working hard in his job or on the house and there never appeared to be any problems at home.
"He was outgoing, friendly and popular with the neighbours. It's so hard to take this in," he added.
Since the disclosure of Fritzl's crimes, Horst's wife has left their home in Traun, Austria.
He said: "It's impossible to describe the mental torture and anguish she's been through. It's beyond words. It's unreal. The whole family needs time to get over this."
Elisabeth, 42, was locked up with her children Kerstin, 19, Stefan, 18, and five-year-old Felix. Lisa, 16, 14-year-old Monika and Alexander, 12, lived with Fritzl and his wife upstairs. Another child died in infancy.