Italy’s Fritzl

Whilst I have been away – enjoying the sunshine, beeches and pink flamingoes of Montpellier (France) – disturbing news has broken of a man who has been arrested in Turin, accused of having a forced incestuous relationship with his daughter, and encouraging his son to do the same. The case is particularly notable in that it is being referred to by the name of a similar case in Austria. As yet, the name of the person who has been accused does not easily trip off the tongue. He has, incidentally, been named as Michele Mongelli. Which seems rather unfortunate for other people who are also named Michele Mongelli, for a quick search of the Internet reveals that it seems a particularly common name.

Josef Fritzl, of course, is the miserable character that kept his daughter imprisoned for 25 years in a cellar in Austria, repeatedly raping her and fathering 7 children by her. It is, I guess, unsurprising that a case in Italy, that bares such apparent similarities, has come to be known by the name of a case that has just (barely a couple of weeks ago) finished. To save my fingers, here is one of the better English articles that I have come across about the case.

I am now facing something of a dilema. This case has surfaced on the doorstep of where we are living, which means that, should I choose to report on it, I would save a fortune in train fares. The case, should it go to trial, would almost certainly be held in Turin – where the alleged crime was committed, and where the family had lived for many years. However, aside from the fact that I have no immediate outlet for such reporting (all the papers that are likely to want copy on this will send their own reporters to cover it), I have to ask myself: is it morally right to report so extensively on the case? Obviously, the news has to be written about, but where should one draw the line and say “enough is enough, let these people have some privacy”.

I have been following the Josef Fritzl case with the same morbid fascination that just about everyone who knows the name will have done. As a journalist by profession, I have been drawn to articles that genuinely say something new, and not simply those that rehash old material. But some have just gone too far. The daughter of this evil man went into hiding once she was released, and testified in the trial only through a video link-up. She even, so the stories go, refused repeated invitations to sell her story (on the grounds that she would then be hounded by the paparazzi, and lose her right to seek an injunction against them). It took The Sun newspaper, a dreadful British tabloid, to track her down and publish details of where she was living, forcing her and her children to move back into the pychiatric clinic which he had been trying to get out of.

And one has to ask: where is the public interest?

So, I’m now thinking that this could be a seriously interesting story to start delving into, in anticipation of it eventually going to trial. But I’m hoping I don’t have to sacrifice my journalistic soul in order to do so.

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