Kidnapper told victim parents had refused to pay a ransom for her

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The Independent Online

The kidnapper of the Austrian teenager Natascha Kampusch led her to believe he had demanded a huge ransom from her parents but claimed they had never responded during her eight years in captivity, her father has said.

Natascha, 18, is living in what police described as a safe location after escaping her abductor who had seized her when she was 10 and held her in a converted car-inspection pit beneath his garage.

Her father, Ludwig Koch, said her abductor, 44- year-old Wolfgang Priklopil, told her that her parents had repeatedly refused to pay a ransom demand he claimed he had made.

Mr Koch, who was briefly reunited with his daughter last week, told the N24 television network that Natascha had said of Priklopil: "He wanted 13m schillings from you, but you didn't respond; you couldn't be reached." Mr Koch said Priklopil appeared to have convinced his daughter that her parents had lost interest in her.

His disclosures offered a partial explanation about why Natascha had apparently never attempted to flee before. He probably deceived her about her parents in an attempt to make her wholly dependent on him.

Police said Priklopil, a telecoms technician, never issued a ransom demand. He killed himself under a train hours after Natascha's escape.

Several psychiatrists have concluded that during her ordeal, Natascha developed "Stockholm syndrome", a psychological condition which leads long-term hostages to develop feelings of sympathy for their abductors. The phrase was coined in 1973 after a six-day siege of a bank in Stockholm. Several hostages tried to resist rescue and some refused to testify against the robbers.

Just weeks before Natascha's escape, Priklopil had taken her out in his red BMW and briefly introduced her to a former business associate. Ernst Holzapfel, a former partner of Priklopil's, said Natascha and her abductor had visited his building company in mid-July and had asked to borrow a car-trailer.

"When I opened the car door, he introduced me to a young girl, but didn't mention her name." Mr Holzapfel said: "She shook my hand and said a polite, 'How do you do'. She made a very cheerful and happy impression. I was very surprised and couldn't figure out whether she was a girlfriend or an acquaintance. I am deeply shocked. I never imagined he would have been capable of something so dreadful."

In a letter this week, Natascha described her life as Priklopil's prisoner. But despite police claims that she was sexually abused, she refused to reveal intimate details of her relationship with him. She said she cooked and cleaned his house and spent her free time reading, watching television, listening to the radio and talking to him.

She said Priklopil had "lavished care and attention" on her but that she had also been " trampled underfoot" by him. His suicide was unnecessary, she said, and she mourned his death. "After all, he was part of my life."

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