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Further details emerge of Austrian kidnapping case

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Friday August 25, 2006

Vienna- Further details were published on Friday of modern Austria's most sensational kidnapping case while the 18-year-old female victim remained in psychological care at a secret location. Newspapers published photographs of the underground room where Natascha Kampusch was kept by her captor, apparently for the entire time between her kidnapping aged ten in 1998, and escape to freedom on Wednesday this week.

It was also revealed that her kidnapper, 44-year-old Wolfgang Priklopil who committed suicide Wednesday evening, may have had an accomplice. A girl witness eight years ago said she had seen Natascha being dragged into a white minibus with two men inside.

Police also acknowledged that Priklopil had been among about 700 drivers of white vans or minibuses questioned in the weeks after the kidnapping, when there was a huge hunt on for Natasha. But investigators at the time saw no reason to search his house 20 kilometres east of Vienna.

On Friday Natascha's location was kept secret. There were no up-to-date photos of her. But papers published a computer simulation, based on a picture of the ten-year-old, of what she was expected to look like now.

Psychologists said she had the chance of a normal life in future, but would probably need years of psychological care. Natasha's parents gave first interviews, and the girl herself was quoted as saying she would speak to media later on.

Her father, Ludwig Koch, said: "Natascha is very thin, has very, very white skin, and patches on her whole body. I don't want to think where they come from."

Police and psychologists did not say whether the girl had been physically maltreated or sexually abused. One of the investigators said it was possible, and she might be suppressing it. In the beginning she had been forced to address her kidnapper as "lord" or "master."

After her initial statements, Natacha was according to police circles increasingly silent by Thursday evening. "She's closing up. It's getting more difficult to question her," said a source. A psychiatrist warned that traumas could appear in a delayed reaction.

Natascha apparently also suffered from the so-called "Stockholm Syndrome" of sympathizing with her captor. Psychologists pointed out that it was no more than basic self-preservation to come to terms with the only human being present during her crucial years of adolescence.

But at the same time, they said, Natascha had also been aware of him as a criminal and enemy, which ultimately gave her the motivation for her successful escape.

On Friday, papers published pictures and details of the windowless, underground hiding-place the kidnapper meticulously prepared for his victim more than eight years ago.

Pictured was a narrow room with a wooden ceiling, high bunk bed, toilet and washbasin, and writing desk with a television set. Leading down to it, from the ground floor of the kidnapper's house, was a narrow, steep flight of steps. The room was sealed off by a heavy steel door.

On Friday morning, international reporters and TV camera crews braved pouring rain to converge on the kidnapper's house, which was sealed off by police cordons.

Among those at the scene were representatives of TV stations from Germany, Britain, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the US, and papers from countries as distant as Chile, India and Australia.

According to the newspaper Die Presse, there were already offers of up to 30,000 euros by British and German media for a meeting with Natascha.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur