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FBI may review Kampusch case cover-up claims

Austrian government committee wants agents to look at Kampusch inquiry 'flaws'

Austrian officials have recommended that FBI agents be called in to investigate into the abduction of Natascha Kampusch, the schoolgirl kidnapped and held in a cellar for eight years, because of inconsistencies in her case which point to the existence of a hitherto unknown accomplice.

The idea of using US investigators came from a parliamentary committee of inquiry which has spent months re-examining evidence collected during the Kampusch case, with the aim of finding out if Austrian police acted properly and followed up all leads.

"It is our opinion that both of these questions have to be answered with, 'no'," the inquiry's chairman, Werner Amon, told parliament. The inquiry also declared that it had not been able to conclusively say whether another kidnapper had been involved.

The government will now consider requesting the services of foreign specialists. The parliamentary inquiry specifically recommended the FBI.

Natascha Kampusch was 10 when she was snatched off a street in Vienna in 1998 and bundled into the back of a van. She spent the next eight years imprisoned in a specially built underground cell beneath the suburban home of her tormentor.

In August 2006, she finally managed to escape. Neighbours discovered the 18-year-old girl looking pale, emaciated and terrified as she hid in a neighbour's garden. Later that day, the headless corpse of Wolfgang Priklopil, her 44-year-old kidnapper, was found on a railway line just outside the Austrian capital.

Police took it for granted that Priklopil had acted alone and took his own life to avoid capture. Yet new evidence has emerged which suggests he may have had an accomplice who eventually murdered him.

There has been speculation that Ms Kampusch's version of her ordeal may not have been entirely truthful and that she had an affair with Priklopil.

The eyewitness account of a 12-year-old schoolgirl, thought to have been the only person who saw Ms Kampusch being abducted in March 1998, provides the most convincing evidence that another person was involved in the kidnap.

That girl, now 23, has revealed that she told police on six occasions that another man was sitting in the driving seat of the white van as Priklopil abducted Ms Kampusch. She has since testified under oath that police put her under intense pressure not to mention the existence of a second man. The Vienna inquiry confirmed last week that she had been "pressurised."

DNA traces on the car Priklopil is said to have driven for six hours before his supposed suicide also point to the existence of a third person.

Ms Kampusch, now 24, has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that a second kidnapper was involved. She has also denied reports she had an affair with Priklopil. A feature film about her ordeal is being made in Austria.