Kampusch defends mother from kidnap plot claims

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The Independent Online

Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian kidnap victim, appeared in court yesterday to deny claims that her mother had masterminded her abduction to cover up a catalogue of sexual abuse.

Ms Kampusch told a defamation hearing in Graz that she had never been molested by Brigitte Sirny prior to the day she was abducted on the way to school in 1998.

Her evidence came in reply to allegations that Mrs Sirny, who was estranged from Ms Kampusch's father, had "hatched a plot to kidnap Natascha" with Wolfgang Prikopil, the man who held her in a dungeon at his home for more than eight years.

Ms Kampusch was called to give evidence at a civil case bought by Martin Wabl, a retired judge who has – for years – claimed Mrs Sirny was involved in her daughter's disappearance. Mr Wabl is attempting to erase a criminal record he received in 2000 when Mrs Sirny successfully gained an injunction against him for making the claims.

In his own evidence yesterday, Mr Wabl, a former family and domestic disputes judge, told the court that he had first become suspicious of Mrs Sirny in the immediate aftermath of Natascha's disappearance, when she was 10.

"I contacted her early on, and something never felt right about her," he said. "I have dealt with numerous disappeared and abused children, but I never met a mother who gave up hope for her daughter so quickly. She was unique."

"I began looking into things, and I reported her to police to say that they should be concentrating on the family. Everything I found out, all the people I spoke to, led me to believe she was implicated in the kidnapping."

With the eyes of the world still on Austria after the Amstetten incest case, the courtroom was cleared of press and public for the 30 minutes of Ms Kampusch's testimony because of the sexual nature of the evidence. Afterwards, Judge Juergen Schweiger only said that she had denied sexual abuse at home when growing up.

Later, Ms Kampusch's father Ludwig Koch told the court that he "didn't know" if his child had ever been sexually abused by his former wife, from who he had separated by the time of Ms Kampusch's kidnapping.

"I do not know for sure if she was involved in the kidnapping," Mr Koch said. "I want to have clarity over whether or not the mother of my child was involved in the whole thing."

Debate has always surrounded Ms Kampusch's relationship with her mother. During the original investigation into her disappearance, Mrs Sirny was for a time a police suspect, after photographs were uncovered that showed her daughter displaying her private parts, wearing lipstick and brandishing a whip, were discovered at her home and published in a Viennese newspaper.

Mrs Sirny dismissed the photographs, saying they were "harmless horseplay". But at the time, an eminent psychiatrist declared them to be "highly sexually charged and taken for the sexual delectation of the person behind the camera". The police eventually dropped Mrs Sirny as a suspect and no charges were ever brought against her.

Yesterday's allegations came the day after it emerged that Ms Kampusch – who still carries a photograph of Prikopil in her handbag – admitted in a magazine interview that she has bought the house near Vienna where she was held for almost eight years to protect it from vandals and keep it from being torn down to build new homes.

"I know it is grotesque. I now have to pay electricity, water and taxes on a house that I never wanted to live in," she said.