'This, in a way, is why I am mourning him,' says kidnapped teenager

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The Independent Online

The teenage Austrian girl who was incarcerated for eight years in a car inspection pit under a suburban garage has defend her kidnapper, saying he had "lavished care and attention" on her and that she mourned the fact that he had committed suicide after her escape.

Natascha Kampusch, 18, was found in a front garden of a house in the Vienna suburb of Strasshof last week after fleeing her abductor who had kidnapped her as she walked to school in 1998 when she was 10. Police had assumed she was dead.

Natascha's extraordinary story took a new and unexpected turn yesterday as she revealed details of her relationship with Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, a communications technician, who held her prisoner for eight years and is believed to have sexually abused her.

Priklopil committed suicide by throwing himself under a train hours after her escape. But in a prepared statement read out by her psychiatrist, Natascha said: "To a certain extent he lavished care and attention on me, but at the same time he treated me like dirt."

Contrary to previous reports, she denied that her abductor had forced her to call him "master" during her imprisonment.

"I never called him master, although he wanted me to. He had chosen the wrong person," she said. "He wasn't my master, I was just as strong as him."

Natascha was said to have wept inconsolably after hearing that her kidnapper had committed suicide. She added in her statement: "For me his death was unnecessary. To a certain extent I mourn for him because he was part of my life."

Describing the eight years she spent in captivity in her windowless underground cell, she said: "I don't have the feeling that I have lost out. I am aware I have not had a normal childhood or adolescence, but at least I did not start smoking or get into bad company."

Yesterday Max Friedrich, Natascha's psychiatrist, said his patient had not wished to talk about "personal details" concerning her life with Priklopil. Female police officers who had interviewed her said they were convinced that he had sexually abused her.

Natascha's statement appeared to confirm the view held by several psychiatrists, that she was afflicted by Stockholm syndrome, a condition which leads hostages to identify with and develop feelings of sympathy for their abductors. But the psychiatrists entrusted with examining her have not so far diagnosed her as suffering from the complaint.

A picture of the humdrum existence Natascha was obliged to lead with her kidnapper also emerged yesterday. Her statement revealed that the pair breakfasted together and that each day she did household chores, cooked, watched TV and read.

While earlier reports gave the impression that Priklopil had kept her in a cell of his own design, Natascha revealed that the pair had jointly furnished her prison beneath his garage, shortly after she was kidnapped.

Her cell, which was sealed by an electrically operated steel door, contained a lavatory, bunk bed, a video recorder, radio and a bookshelf. Photographs showed a room littered with scraps of paper which had a narrow flight of steps leading to a trap door. "The room was adequate. It was mine and not meant to be seen by the public," she added.

Natascha was reunited with her parents shortly after she escaped her captor last Wednesday. But she asked to be separated from them at the weekend, saying she needed time to be able to cope with the aftermath of her ordeal. She is staying at an undisclosed location where she was said to be receiving counselling.

Dr Freidrich, her psychiatrist, said she did not see herself as "the poor victim that the media has portrayed her as". He added: "She is a grown-up, young woman." He warned however that the media attention given to her since her reappearance threatened to turn her into a victim "for a second time".

Natascha Kampusch's statement

The following is an edited transcript of her statement, read by her psychiatrist.

Dear journalists, reporters, dear global audience!

I am very much aware of what an impact the events of the past days must have made on you. I imagine how shocking and frightening the thought that something like this could even be possible must be. Furthermore, I am aware that you are somewhat curious about me and naturally want to know more details about the circumstances in which I lived.

First I want to let you know that I don't want and will not answer any questions about personal or intimate details. I will act against those who overstep personal boundaries towards voyeurism. Whoever tries to do so will have to watch out. I have grown into a young woman interested in education and with human needs.

My living space: My room was well enough furnished. It was my room and not meant to be shown in public.

My daily life: This was very regulated. Most of the time we had breakfast together - he didn't work most of the time - household chores, reading, watching television, talking, cooking. That's what it was like for years. Everything connected with the fear of loneliness.

The relationship: He was not my master. I was just as strong. But - to give you a metaphor - he carried me in his arms but also trampled me underfoot. But he took on the wrong one [person] - and he and I both knew that. He carried out the kidnapping on his own, everything was already prepared.

He furnished the room - which was not just 1.6 metres high - together with me. By the way, I did not cry after the escape. There was no reason for mourning.

In my view his death was unnecessary. A penalty would not have been the end of the world. He was a part of my life and this is why I am, in a way, mourning him.

Of course it is true my youth was different from many other people. But generally I don't have the feeling I missed anything. I spared myself many things, I did not start smoking or drinking and I did not hang out in bad company.

Currently I feel good where I am, perhaps a little bit patronised. But that's how I decided that I want to only stay in touch with my family over the phone. I will determine myself when I will contact journalists.

About my escape: When I had to clean and vacuum the car in the garden, he went away because of the vacuuming noise. That was my opportunity, I simply left the vacuum cleaner running.

... Intimate questions: Everybody wants to ask intimate questions that is not their business. Maybe I will tell a therapist or maybe I will tell somebody when I feel the need, but perhaps I will never tell. The intimacy belongs to me alone.

... It was Wolfgang's own decision to throw himself under the train. I sympathise with Wolfgang's mother. I can feel with her and put myself in her position. I, and both of us, think of him.

I want to thank all people who are so interested in my life. Please bear with me in the time to come. Dr Friedrich will explain it with this statement. Many people are taking care of me. Give me some time until I can tell the story myself.