Police may have ID'd girl missing for 8 years
Austrian officials 'quite sure it's her'; alleged abductor committed suicide
Updated: 12:51 a.m. CT Aug 24, 2006
VIENNA, Austria - An 18-year-old woman who was kidnapped eight years ago and held captive in a cellar managed to escape, and her alleged abductor committed suicide by jumping in front of a train, authorities said Thursday.
Natascha Kampusch was found in a yard in a residential area northeast of Vienna on Wednesday afternoon. She was identified by a scar on one of her arms from a childhood operation, authorities said, ending one of Austria’s biggest police mysteries. She had disappeared while walking to school as a 10-year-old.
The alleged kidnapper has been identified by Austrian media as 44-year-old Wolfgang Priklopil. A DNA analysis was under way to confirm his identity, Austrian television reported.
Armin Halm, spokesman for Austrian’s federal police, said the woman told investigators her name was Natascha Kampusch and said she was kidnapped and kept for years in a cellar under a garage in a house in Strasshof, just outside Vienna, police said.
Besides the telltale scar, she also was identified by her father, mother and half sister. Results of a DNA test were expected later Thursday, Austrian television reported.
“We are quite sure it’s her,” Halm said.
Kept to himself
Erich Zwettler, of Austria’s federal police, said neighbors told officers the alleged kidnapper was not very sociable and kept to himself, state broadcaster ORF reported on its Web site.
ORF reported that an 80-year-old man found the woman, whom he described as very thin and pale. The man, who was not identified, said the woman was running and screaming and in a state of panic.
Kampusch vanished in Vienna on her way to school on March 2, 1998, triggering a massive search that extended into neighboring Hungary.
Zwettler was quoted by the Austria Press Agency as saying the woman appeared to have a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, a survival mechanism in which a hostage begins to empathize with a captor.
Investigators said the woman had been examined by a doctor and that she did not have signs of injuries. But police are investigating whether she was beaten or sexually abused.
Nikolaus Koch, a lead investigator, said on Austrian television that the police had contact with the alleged kidnapper about three months after the girl disappeared but that he had a “sturdy alibi” at the time.
Halm said the woman spent the night in “a secure location” in the presence of a female police officer with specialized psychological training. She was due to undergo more questioning throughout the day, he said.
Kampusch’s sister said in remarks broadcast on Austrian television that her mother almost had a nervous breakdown when police notified her Wednesday, adding that she always held onto the hope that her daughter would come back one day.
“She always said she was still alive,” said the sister, who was identified as Sabina Sirny.
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