24/08/06 - News section
Teenager tells of her eight years as dungeon sex slave
By REBECCA CAMBER in Vienna
A girl held captive as a sex slave in a dungeon for eight years told police of her dramatic escape from the man she was forced to call 'Master'.
Natascha Kampusch, who was ten when she was kidnapped on her way to school, was imprisoned in a tiny pit dug into the floor of her captor's garage.
Survivor: Natascha Kampusch, head covered, is led from a police station, above. Below, left, abductor Wolfgang Priklopil and, right, Natascha aged ten
She was held for so long that she developed Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological condition in which captives begin to identify with their abductors.
But after years of obeying the Master, Natascha escaped after being let out of her cell unsupervised.
Police were called when she was found cowering in a neighbour's garden in Vienna on Wednesday.
Her kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, gave officers the slip in a 100mph car chase, only to commit suicide hours later by jumping in front of a train.
Natascha was reunited with her parents - and the first thing she asked was whether her father, Ludwig Koch, still had her favourite toy car.
The pair then stared at each other with tears running down their cheeks before Natascha jumped up and threw her arms around her father's neck.
Mr Koch, 50, said later: "I still can't believe it. God must have been involved. I never gave up hope. But I am so wonderfully relieved.
"She said, 'Dad, I love you.' And the next question was, 'Is my toy car still there?' I never gave it away in all those years. I always put out of my mind the thought that she was dead."
Natascha's mother, Brigitte Sirny, 55, who was away on holiday when the news broke, said: "This is the most wonderful day of my life."
Police spokesman Armin Halm said Natascha appeared in good physical and mental health. Her father said, however, that she looked 'emaciated' with "very white skin and blotches all over her body".
The 18-year-old was interviewed by detectives and psychologists about her ordeal at Priklopil's hands.
The 44-year-old communications technician snatched Natascha in 1998, sparking the biggest search in Austrian history.
The house where the gadget-obsessed loner kept her was known locally as 'Fort Knox' because of its many security and alarm systems.
He was among some 1,000 mini-van owners interviewed after a witness said Natascha had been picked up by a man driving one. Police fell for Priklopil's alibi however.
Natascha told officers she was kept as a sex slave in a tiny windowless cell behind a heavy metal gate. She was forced to call her captor 'Gebiete' - an old-fashioned term for 'Master' used in fairy stories.
Initially, it was reported that she had escaped from Priklopil's car when his BMW was stopped for a routine police check.
But it emerged that she had fled from his two-storey house in Strasshof near Vienna and was found by an elderly woman. Police quickly raided the property, finding Natascha's passport and her tiny cell. Priklopil had already fled after discovering she was missing.
Neighbours said they took Natascha for Priklopil's girlfriend when they first saw her around a year ago.
There were reports that Natascha's parents' marriage collapsed under the strain of her abduction with each blaming the other for her disappearance.
It was claimed that when she was abducted Natascha was running away from home after a series of family rows.