Fifteen years ago, it was not just Austria that shocked the case of the girl Natasha Kampusch, who escaped after more than eight years of capture by the kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil.
Photo: Ken McKay/ITV / Shutterstock Editorial / Profimedia
Natascha Kampusch pictured during a visit to the ‘Good Morning Britain’ television show in 2017.
Mentally disturbed, Priklopil kept her in a specially adapted cellar of his house in Strasshof near Vienna. On the same day, August 23, 2006, when 18-year-old Kampusch managed to escape, her captor committed suicide by jumping under a train.
It was shortly after seven in the morning on March 2, 1998, when ten-year-old Kampusch left her parents’ apartment in Vienna’s Donaustadt district and walked to school. As she passed a white van parked by the sidewalk, an unknown man jumped out of the car and dragged the schoolgirl to the bottom. The whole event was accidentally seen by a twelve-year-old girl who said that another man was behind the wheel of the van. However, its existence has never been confirmed.
Following the announcement of the abduction, police began investigating the owners of the white van. That was the first time she met the name of the then 36-year-old unemployed technician Priklopila. His Mercedes were also inspected by investigators, and because they found nothing suspicious, they removed the man from the list of suspects.
Kampusch spent time in a secret room under the garage of Priklopil’s family house. It was clear from the equipment of the cell that Priklopil was preparing for the event long in advance. There was a bed, a table, a toilet, a sink, and even a small television in a room measuring about six square meters. The entrance was closed by a soundproof safe door, carefully camouflaged from the outside.
For a time, Priklopil kept his victim in an underground shelter, where he went to visit her. But over time, he began to trust the girl, letting her into his house, into the adjoining garden, and sometimes even taking her with him to the public. According to some psychologists, Kampuschová suffered from the so-called Stockholm Syndrome, a condition in which, after a long captivity, an emotional bond develops between the victim and the abductor.
From the beginning, the perpetrator’s desire for sex with a minor girl was offered as the motive for the abduction. However, Kampusch had long denied that such a thing had happened between her and Priklopil. It was not until 2013 that the German tabloid Bild reported that Kampusch had spoken publicly for the first time that she had been raped.
Kampusch’s imprisonment lasted exactly eight years, five months and 21 days. It ended on August 23, 2006, when she and her kidnapper were cleaning the inside of the car in the garden of the house. At one point, Priklopil’s cell phone rang in his pocket. Due to the noise of the vacuum cleaner, the man stepped aside, and at that moment Kampusch ran to the neighbors, who alerted the police. While the men of the law arrived at the scene, Priklopil left to look for the fleeing girl. He then committed suicide in the evening.
The investigation of the case was originally closed three months after Kampusch managed to escape. However, it was resumed in October 2008. It was suspected that Priklopil had not acted alone. Even the renewed investigation did not confirm the existence of an accomplice. Finally, Kampusch herself claimed that she had never seen any of Priklopil’s accomplices.
Immediately after the escape, Kampuschová came into the care of a team of child psychiatrists, who prepared her for entry into normal life. She later wrote an autobiographical book called 3096, which referred to the number of days she was imprisoned. The film, which premiered in February 2013, bears the same name.