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Three years on, Kampusch faces questions over lone kidnapper

30th August 2009, Comments0 comments

Kampusch's story made headlines around the world after she re-emerged on August 23, 2006, eight years after being kidnapped on her way to school in the Austrian capital Vienna at age 10.

Vienna -- Three years after escaping the kidnapper who locked her up for eight years, Natascha Kampusch is still struggling to duck the limelight with new allegations that her jailer may not have acted alone.

Kampusch's story made headlines around the world after she re-emerged on August 23, 2006, eight years after being kidnapped on her way to school in the Austrian capital Vienna, aged 10.

Her kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, killed himself on the night of her escape.

During her eight-year ordeal, Kampusch, now 21, was held in a house in the small town of Strasshof, 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Vienna, spending most of her captivity in a five-square-metre (54-square-feet) basement cell secured by a heavy vault door.

Initially the media's darling -- her first televised interview was broadcast on some 120 channels around the world and she briefly hosted a television talk show -- Kampusch has lately grown quiet and insisted on her right to privacy.

But her efforts to rebuild her life away from the spotlight have been hampered by the enormous public interest in what happened inside her cell as well as her private life outside.

Most recently, a commission of inquiry set up in February 2008 to probe possible police errors in the investigation into her disappearance, claimed more than one kidnapper may have been involved in her abduction.

Kampusch has always maintained there was only one kidnapper despite claims from a witness that she had seen two men in the white van that drove away with the youngster on the day of the kidnapping.

The head of the commission, former constitutional court president Ludwig Adamovich, wants Kampusch to be questioned again to clear up any possible contradiction.

Adamovich also outraged Kampusch's mother Brigitta Sirny with comments to a tabloid newspaper that "it is conceivable that this captivity was better than what she had experienced until then."

Sirny was "not exactly affectionate," Adamovich added.

Sirny promptly announced she would sue Adamovich.

Another commission member and former president of the supreme court, Johann Rzeszut, went further in an email to the daily Oesterreich, saying that Kampusch's life might be in danger if Priklopil indeed had an accomplice.

"We fear nothing more than to read in the newspaper one day: 'Natasha Kampusch in a deadly accident'," he wrote, adding that she might have been blackmailed to say her kidnapper acted alone.

"It is possible that Natascha Kampusch is consciously saying falsehoods and covering up for somebody," he told the daily Salzburger Nachrichten.

The commission has been careful to always speak of "hypotheses" and "speculation" necessitating further inquiries, but Kampusch's advisors and lawyers have sprung to her defence, accusing the commission of turning a victim into a suspect.

Kampusch, who has her own flat in Vienna and is studying for her high school diploma, meanwhile raised eyebrows when she was seen earlier this summer at Priklopil's former house, which she now owns. Since Priklopil had no descendants, the court awarded Natascha the house as compensation for her years spent in captivity.

Many have suggested she may suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, whereby kidnap victims come to identify with their captor.

In an interview with Germany's NDR radio broadcast on Thursday, Kampusch said she still did not feel free, three years after her escape.

"I have to constantly defend myself and constantly justify the way I am, and that takes a lot of energy. Nobody lets me be me," she said.

"There are a lot of people who try to collect me as a kind of trophy," she added.

Kampusch sued a local free newspaper in December 2007 for violation of privacy after it published pictures of her dancing in a nightclub with a male companion.

Kampusch's case, which briefly put Austria in the international spotlight, was overshadowed last year by the Amstetten affair, where 73-year-old Josef Fritzl locked up and raped his daughter for 24 years, fathering seven children with her.

AFP/Expatica

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