Austrian authorities said today a young woman found near Vienna has been identified as a girl who went missing more than eight years ago.
The woman said her name was Natascha Kampusch and told police she had been kidnapped and kept in a small enclosure under a garage for years. Her alleged kidnapper committed suicide last night.
Armin Halm, spokesman for Austrian's federal police, said Kampusch had been identified by a scar on one of her ears that dates back to an operation she had when she was younger. Results of a DNA test are expected later today, but "we are quite sure it's her," Halm said.
The discovery could bring closure to one of the biggest police mysteries in recent Austrian history.
Kampusch, then aged 10, vanished in Vienna on her way to school on March 2, 1998. Her disappearance triggered a massive search that extended into neighbouring Hungary.
Yesterday afternoon, police said they found the young woman in a garden northeast of Vienna. The woman, who was identified late yesterday by her father, mother and half-sister, told police that she had been kidnapped and held prisoner by a man, Halm said.
Halm said police found Kampusch's passport in the house in Strasshof, Lower Austria, where she was allegedly kept.
The alleged kidnapper committed suicide by jumping in front of a train in Vienna, Halm said.
He has been identified by Austrian media as 44-year-old Wolfgang Priklopil, a technician.
Halm said the woman spent the night in "a secure location" in the presence of a female police officer who has specialized psychological training. She ate breakfast this morning and was due to undergo more questioning throughout the day, he said.
Investigators say that the woman had been examined by a doctor and that she did not have signs of injuries. Still, police are investigating whether she was beaten or sexually abused.
Erich Zwettler of Austria's federal police was quoted by the Austria Press Agency as saying that the woman appeared to have a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, a survival mechanism in which a hostage begins to empathise with his or her captors.