Amstetten, a town in eastern Austria, feels eerily quiet after Sunday's arrest of a 73-year-old believed to have imprisoned his own daughter for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, the dpa reported.
"We are confronted with an unbelievable crime. It goes above anything I can imagine. It is a dimension where one is almost speechless," Austrian Interior Minister Guenther Platter said.
Local residents, like the rest of Austria, seemed speechless over the mindboggling tragedy, but slowly the questions are starting to emerge: How could this have happened?
Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, was held in a basement dungeon and sexually abused by her father Josef, while three of her six surviving children lived with him and her mother just above her prison.
"It feels so surreal. It's like this cannot have happened," said a 50-year-old Amstetten resident, who declined to give her name.
Amstetten, population 23,000, is not a pretty place. But neither the ugly industrial estates on the outskirts of town nor the gaggle of 1960s-style architecture suggest the quiet horrors now associated with the town.
Walking past the small, grey family home on slightly rundown Ybbsstrasse, a street lined with houses and small businesses not to far from the city centre, passersby are bound to wonder how people failed to notice that something was wrong with the Fritzl family.
Elisabeth, then 18, was reported missing by her father in 1984. By then, she had already been a victim of sexual abuse for seven years and had twice tried to run away from home.
Over the years, her father produced various "letters" from his daughter, hinting that she was in the clutches of an obscure religious sect. Local authorities and neighbours only too quickly believed, and investigators never seemed to have considered the family as suspects.
Authorities seemed to have no problems accepting Josef's stories that his missing daughter over the course of several years deposited three infants at his doorstep, asking him to look after them.
The "grandparents" were allowed to adopt one, and take into foster care two of the children, who police now believe to be Josef's children with his own daughter. School authorities and social workers never found anything wrong with the family, Austrian media said.
Officials stressed that Josef seemed to have led a perfect double life, keeping up the facade of the loving grandfather over the years, even accusing media and authorities of not looking hard enough for his daughter.
"He was incredibly devious. He built it all up very intelligently," local official Heinz Lenze told Austrian TV.
Most surprising for many is that Elisabeth's mother, Rosemarie, 69, never noticed in all those years that anything was amiss. Police believe she never had contact with her daughter or the three children imprisoned with her in the basement, corroborated by Elisabeth's initial statements.
Only in a climate of extreme repression could the woman have never noticed that her husband was providing food and clothing for up to four extra people in another part of the house for nearly a quarter century, Austrian experts were quoted as saying.
One chapter of the tragedy ended with Sunday's arrest, triggered by an intensive search for Elisabeth last week. Her oldest daughter, Kerstin, 19, had been brought to a hospital on April 19 by her "grandfather."
The girl, who is believed to suffer from a rare disease, was left on his doorstep by her mother, he told the authorities, who at last decided to take a closer look at the case, if only to get the missing mother to provide medical information on her daughter.
Elisabeth and her children are free from their prison, but many questions remain.
One of them is what the future will hold for them. Kerstin remains hospitalized in very serious condition, and two of her brothers have seen the sunlight for the first time in their lives only a few days ago.