She dashed to freedom the moment she got a chance, but reportedly wept inconsolably when told her “master” had thrown himself in front of a train. She had a tearful reunion with her parents, yet hasn’t asked for them since.
New details — and fresh questions — emerged Saturday about Natascha Kampusch’s welfare after her ordeal at the hands of a man who yanked her off a suburban street when she was 10 and confined her to a squalid, windowless cell for more than eight years.
For the first time, a lawyer offered a glimpse into how Kampusch is faring since her dramatic flight Wednesday from her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil, as he made a cell phone call at his house in the town of Strasshof, just north of Vienna.
‘She needs her rest’
Erich Zwettler of the Federal Criminal Investigations Bureau said the young woman — who had a brief and emotional reunion with her family after her escape — had not expressed a desire to see them again. Zwettler said Kampusch would not be questioned again until Monday at the earliest.
“She urgently needs a break,” he said. “She needs her rest.”
That pained her father, Ludwig Koch, desperate to have five minutes with the daughter he never expected to see alive again.
The Austria Press Agency, citing a senior investigator, said Koch begged police to be allowed to have a cup of coffee with her and snap a few photographs to share with the extended family. Police declined, fearing the photos would end up splashed across newspapers and on television because of intense interest in the case, long one of Austria’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
But later Saturday, Koch excitedly told reporters his daughter sent him a letter that read, in part: “We’ll have all the time in the world.”
Police psychologists have suggested Kampusch may have suffered from so-called “Stockholm Syndrome,” where victims adapt to what otherwise would be insufferable situations by identifying with their captors.
Although authorities said Priklopil at least initially insisted that his captive call him “master,” the newspaper Kurier cited an unidentified investigator as saying she burst into tears when told this week he was dead.
Diary scoured for clues
The newspaper said statements Kampusch made to a female investigator suggested Priklopil may have had sexual contact with the girl, but Zwettler said the federal police could confirm only that she had confided in the officer. He said further interviews were needed, and investigators were examining diary entries for clues.
In most cases, The Associated Press does not identify victims or alleged victims of sexual assault. In this case, however, the name of the missing girl has been widely reported because of the circumstances of her abduction.
Kampusch, who was being kept in a secure and undisclosed location, was “for the moment well” and enjoying some private time reading newspapers and watching TV, said Monika Pinterits, an attorney who said she spent several hours at her side.
Describing her as “very intelligent and very eloquent,” Pinterits told the Austria Press Agency that Kampusch objected to being pitied in news accounts about her.
“She is not a ’poor victim’ — she is an adult young woman” who wants her privacy respected, she said.
Captor thoroughly planned cell
Investigators have determined that Priklopil engaged in elaborate plans to build the hidden cell at least a year before the kidnapping, when he carried out extensive excavation work on his basement. He kept a small photo album of the project, which included a bed, a toilet, a sink, a small television and piles of books.
Police said the woman was occasionally allowed to watch videos and may even have been schooled by her captor.
“She is very clever — she absorbs everything,” Pinterits said. “She grasps quickly and analyzes a lot. But part of her is still in the old world.”
As investigators examined the 18-year-old’s diaries for clues to what she endured, scores of ordinary Austrians offered prayer, support and admiration in a flurry of emotional “Dear Natascha” messages posted online.
“Nobody can return the lost years to you, but you are strong and you will survive,” read one.
“You amaze me! How could you have endured such hell?” said another.
Zwettler said investigators continue to comb through the house and are questioning numerous people as they work to determine whether Priklopil had any accomplices. At the time of the kidnapping, another girl told police she saw two men drag Kampusch into a white van.
DNA taken from the body of Priklopil, who jumped beneath a commuter train within hours of Kampusch’s escape, was checked against a vast nationwide database and showed he was not wanted “anywhere in Austria in connection with a criminal offense,” Zwettler said.
That relieved Police Maj. Gen. Gerhard Lang, who said it ruled out the possibility that the 44-year-old technician was a serial predator.