Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl who was imprisoned for eight years and systematically tortured after being kidnapped on her way to school at the age of 10, has revealed shocking details of her ordeal for the first time.
In her book, 3096 Days, Miss Kampusch tells how she was kept in a "hermetically sealed" dungeon, beaten "black and blue", forced to sleep manacled to her captor and tried taking her own life because she saw it as her only means of escape.
She disappeared while on her way to school in 1998 and only escaped the clutches of Wolfgang Priklopil, a communications technician, in August 2006. She managed to distract him with the noise of a vacuum cleaner as he took a phone call, then ran to a nearby house to raise the alarm. A week later, Priklopil, 44, committed suicide while on the run from the police by jumping in front of a train.
Bizarrely, Miss Kampusch, who is now 22 and presents a talk show on Austrian television, marked her tormentor's death by saying she was in mourning because in a macabre way he had become "part of my life".
In extracts from her book, published in the Daily Mail, she describes the first time that she saw the man who would steal her away from her family, her childhood and her life.
"He had blue eyes, and his gaze was strangely empty; he seemed lost and very vulnerable," she writes. She recalls that she had only recently been allowed to walk to school by herself in the town of Donaustadt and still felt the full force of her mother's warnings not to talk to strangers.
Recalling her capture as "a choreography of terror" – as Priklopil grabbed her by her waist and threw her into his white delivery van – she attempts to remember her first reaction to what was happening to her as she was driven away to be incarcerated in the tiny cellar beneath the garage of Priklopil's home in a suburb of Vienna.
"Did I scream? I don't think so. Yet everything inside me was one single scream," she says. "It pushed upwards and became lodged far down in my throat. Did I fight back? I must have, because the next day I had a black eye. I remember only a feeling of paralysing helplessness.
"The whole thing had taken just a few seconds. But the moment the van door closed behind me, I was well aware of the fact that I'd just been kidnapped – and would probably die."
Although Priklopil at first appeared relatively considerate, even asking his young captive what she needed "as if I were staying the night at a hotel", he gradually became violent and sexually abusive. After a year, he forced her to choose a new name in an attempt to diminish her sense of identity; she chose Bibiane.
The once-healthy teenager's weight dropped to less than 6st and she was forced to carry out tasks for him in his garden without wearing underwear. She began recording the beatings she received – at times up to 200 week – in notebooks that she still keeps today.
Miss Kampusch says she began to seriously consider suicide as her only escape when she heard the author of a book about missing persons speaking on the radio about her disappearance. "At 14, I'd tried several times to strangle myself with articles of clothing. At 15, I tried to slit my wrists with a large sewing needle," she recalls. "This time, I piled paper and toilet rolls on to my hot plate. The dungeon would fill with smoke and I'd gently drift away, out of a life that was no longer my own.
"When the acrid smoke reached my lungs, I inhaled deeply. But then I began to cough and the will to survive kicked in. I held my pillow in front of my mouth and threw wet clothes on top of the blistering paper. The next morning, the dungeon still smelled like a smokehouse. When Priklopil came in, he yanked me out of bed. How dare I try to escape him! His face revealed a mixture of anger and fear. Fear that I could ruin everything."
Miss Kampusch is considered to have made a good recovery in the circumstances. However, the psychological scars of her ordeal are still very much in evidence: she has bought both his house and his car. However, she is considering suing Austrian police over their failed attempts to locate her.