Natascha Maria Kampusch (born 17 February 1988) is an Austrian woman who was abducted at the age of 10 on 2 March 1998 and held in a secret cellar by her kidnapper Wolfgang Přiklopil for more than eight years, until she escaped on 23 August 2006. She has written a book about her ordeal, 3,096 Days (2010), upon which the 2013 German film 3096 Days is based.
Natascha Kampusch (2019)
Natascha Maria Kampusch
17 February 1988
|Disappeared||2 March 1998 (aged 10)|
|Status||Found alive 23 August 2006 (aged 18)|
|Known for||Kidnap survivor|
Kampusch was raised by her mother, Brigitta Sirny (née Kampusch), and her father, Ludwig Koch, in Vienna, Austria. Her early life with her mother was reportedly not a happy one, according to Ludwig Adamovich, head of a special commission looking into possible police failures in the investigation of the kidnapping. He claimed that "the time Kampusch was imprisoned might have been better for her than what she experienced before", a statement absolutely denied by Brigitta Sirny, who threatened to sue the commission chief over his remarks.
Her family included two adult sisters, and five nieces and nephews. Sirny and Koch separated while Kampusch was still a child and divorced after her abduction. Kampusch spent time with both of them, and had returned to her mother's home from a holiday with Koch the day before her kidnapping.
The 10-year-old Kampusch left her family's residence in Vienna's Donaustadt district on the morning of 2 March 1998, but failed to arrive at school or come home. A 12-year-old witness reported having seen her being dragged into a white minibus by two men, although Kampusch did not report a second man being present. A massive police effort followed in which 776 minivans were examined, including that of kidnapper Přiklopil, who lived about half an hour from Vienna by car in the Lower Austrian town of Strasshof an der Nordbahn near Gänserndorf. He stated that he was alone at home on the morning of the kidnapping, and the police were satisfied with his explanation that he was using the minibus to transport rubble from the construction of his home.
Speculations arose of child pornography rings or organ theft, leading officials to also investigate possible links to the crimes of French serial killer Michel Fourniret. Kampusch had carried her passport with her when she left, as she had been on a family trip to Hungary a few days before, so the police extended the search abroad. Accusations against Kampusch's family complicated the issue even more.
During the eight years of her captivity, Kampusch was held in a small cellar underneath Přiklopil's garage. The entrance was concealed behind a cupboard. The cellar had only 5 m2 (54 sq ft) of space. It had a door made of concrete and was reinforced with steel. The room had no windows and was soundproof. For the first six months of her captivity, Kampusch was not allowed to leave the chamber at any time, and for several years of her captivity, she was not allowed to leave the tiny space at night. Afterwards, she spent increasing amounts of time upstairs in the rest of the house, but each night was sent back to the chamber to sleep, as well as while Přiklopil was at work.
In later years, she was seen outside in the garden alone, and Přiklopil's business partner has said that Kampusch seemed relaxed and happy when Přiklopil and she called at his home to borrow a trailer. After her 18th birthday, she was allowed to leave the house with Přiklopil, but her kidnapper threatened to kill her if she made any noise. He later took her on a skiing trip to a resort near Vienna for a few hours. She initially denied that they had made the trip, but eventually admitted that it was true, although she said that she had no chance to escape during that time.
According to Kampusch's official statement after her escape, Přiklopil and she would get up early each morning to have breakfast together. Přiklopil gave her books, so she educated herself. She did not feel that she had missed anything during her imprisonment, but she noted, "I spared myself many things, I did not start smoking or drinking and I did not hang out in bad company", but she also said, "It was a place to despair." She was given a television and radio to pass the time, although she was initially only allowed to watch taped programmes and listen to foreign radio stations so that she would not be aware of the publicised search for her. At one point, she tried to escape by jumping out of a car.
A large portion of Kampusch's time upstairs was spent doing housework for Přiklopil and cooking for him. Dietmar Ecker, Kampusch's media advisor, said that Přiklopil "would beat her so badly that she could hardly walk." Přiklopil would starve her to make her physically weak and unable to escape. Her body mass index had reached as low as 14.8 during captivity (normal BMI: 18.5 to 25). Kampusch was also raped by Přiklopil.
Přiklopil had warned Kampusch that the doors and windows of the house were booby-trapped with high explosives. He also claimed to be carrying a gun and that he would kill her and the neighbours if she attempted to escape. Nevertheless, Kampusch on one occasion fantasized about chopping his head off with an axe, although she quickly dismissed the idea. She also attempted to make noise during her early years of captivity by throwing bottles of water against the walls. She said that on trips out with Přiklopil, she had attempted to attract attention, but in vain.
The 18-year-old Kampusch reappeared on 23 August 2006. At 12:53 pm, she was cleaning and vacuuming her kidnapper's automobile in the garden when Přiklopil got a call on his mobile phone. Because of the vacuum's loud noise, he walked away to take the call. Kampusch left the vacuum cleaner running and ran away, unseen by Přiklopil, who completed the phone call without any sign of being disturbed or distracted. Kampusch ran for some 200 m through gardens and a street, jumping fences, and asking passers-by to call the police, but they paid her no attention. After about five minutes, she knocked on the window of a 71-year-old neighbour known as Inge T, saying, "I am Natascha Kampusch". The neighbour called the police, who arrived at 1:04 pm. Later, Kampusch was taken to the police station in the town of Deutsch-Wagram.
Kampusch was identified by a scar on her body, by her passport (which was found in the room where she had been held), and by DNA tests. She was in good physical health, although she looked pale and shaken and weighed only 48 kg (106 lb); she weighed 45 kg (99 lb) when she disappeared eight years earlier. She grew only 15 cm (5.9 in) during her captivity.
Sabine Freudenberger was the first police officer to speak to Kampusch after her ordeal, and she said that she was astonished by her "intelligence, her vocabulary". After two years, Přiklopil had brought her books, newspapers, and a radio, which she kept tuned mainly to Ö1, an ORF station that is known for promoting education and classical music. She also states that she constantly had a feeling that she lacked something: "a deficit. So I wanted to make that better and I tried to educate myself, to teach myself skills. I have learned to knit, for example."
|Died||23 August 2006 (aged 44)|
|Cause of death||Suicide by jumping in front of train|
|Children||an anonymous daughter (alleged)|
|Parent(s)||Karl and Waltraud Přiklopil|
Wolfgang Přiklopil (14 May 1962 – 23 August 2006) was an Austrian communications technician of Czech origin. He was born to Karl and Waltraud Přiklopil in Vienna, and was an only child. His father was a cognac salesman and his mother was a shoe saleswoman. Přiklopil worked for a time at Siemens as a communications technician.
Evidence recovery was complicated, as Přiklopil's only computer was a 1980s Commodore 64, which is incompatible with modern-day data-recovery programs. Before Kampusch escaped, Přiklopil was trying to procure false papers as a Czech citizen to "begin a new life" with Kampusch.
Přiklopil knew that the police were after him, so he killed himself by jumping in front of a train near the Wien Nord station in Vienna. He had apparently planned to commit suicide rather than be caught, having told Kampusch, "they would not catch him alive".
After the escapeEdit
In her official statement Kampusch said, "I don't want and will not answer any questions about personal or intimate details". After Kampusch's escape, police investigated whether Přiklopil had an accomplice, but they eventually determined that he acted alone.
Kampusch sympathised with her captor in the documentary Natascha Kampusch: 3096 days in captivity. She said, "I feel more and more sorry for him—he's a poor soul". According to police, she "cried inconsolably" when she was told that he was dead, and she lit a candle for him at the morgue. She has, however, referred to her captor as a "criminal".
Newspapers quoting unnamed psychologists suggested that Kampusch might suffer from Stockholm syndrome, but Kampusch says that this is not the case. She suggests that people who use this term about her are disrespectful of her and do not allow her the right to describe and analyse the complex relationship that she had with her kidnapper in her own words.
After reportedly "hundreds of requests for an interview" with the teenager, "with media outlets offering vast sums of money", Kampusch was interviewed by Austrian public broadcaster ORF. The interview was broadcast on 6 September 2006 with her approval. ORF did not pay for its interview, and said any proceeds from selling the interview to other channels would be forwarded to Kampusch. The interview was sold to more than 120 countries at a fee of 290 euros per minute. This money, estimated to some hundred thousand euros, was to be donated to women in Africa and Mexico by Kampusch. Likewise she was planning projects to help these women. Interest was enormous.
The newspaper Kronen Zeitung and news magazine NEWS also interviewed Kampusch. The interview was published on 6 September 2006. Both press interviews were given in return for a package including housing support, a long-term job offer, and help with her education.
New developments in Kampusch's case challenged the Austrian government in February 2008. Politicians of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) threatened to break up the newly formed SPÖ–ÖVP ("red–black") coalition government in April and May 2008. Kampusch said that she had lost confidence in Austrian justice. Revelations of mistakes in the interior ministry's investigation of her kidnapping came to light, as well as statements of a policeman that were repeatedly ignored in 1998.
The book Girl in the Cellar: the Natascha Kampusch Story by Allan Hall and Michael Leidig appeared in November 2006, written in English. Kampusch's lawyer described the book as being both speculative and premature, and therefore planned to take legal action against it.
Together with two journalists, Kampusch's mother Brigitta Sirny wrote a book about the ordeal, Verzweifelte Jahre ("Desperate Years"). Kampusch appeared at the initial presentation of the book in August 2007, but did not want to be photographed or interviewed. Sirny writes that she did not have much contact with Kampusch after the escape because Kampusch was shielded from the outside world.
Kampusch established her own website containing personal information including pictures of herself on 5 December 2007. She had her own talk show on the new Austria TV channel, PULS 4, starting on 1 June 2008. The show had the working title of In Conversation with…Natascha Kampusch and eventually premiered as Natascha Kampusch trifft (Natascha Kampusch meets...). It ran for only three shows.
On 17 June 2010, German film-maker and director Bernd Eichinger announced that he was making a film based on Kampusch's captivity and wanted Kate Winslet to star in the film. Bernd Eichinger died on 24 January 2011; Kampusch attended his funeral.
In 2011, the Austrian film Michael, which has a plot that resembles the Natascha Kampusch case, was released.
On 15 April 2012, a German newspaper reported that a film based on her autobiography with the same name was to be made, featuring Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Kampusch and Thure Lindhardt as Přiklopil. The film 3096 Days (3096 Tage) was directed by Sherry Hormann and was released on 28 February 2013.
The house where Kampusch was imprisoned was built by Přiklopil's grandfather, Oskar Přiklopil, after World War II. During the Cold War period, Oskar and his son Karl built a bomb shelter, thought to be the origin of Kampusch's dungeon. Přiklopil took over the house in 1984 following his grandmother's death.
Kampusch now owns the house in which she was imprisoned, saying, "I know it's grotesque – I must now pay for electricity, water, and taxes on a house I never wanted to live in". It was reported that she claimed the house from Přiklopil's estate because she wanted to protect it from vandals and being torn down; she also noted that she has visited it since her escape. When the third anniversary of her escape approached, it was revealed she had become a regular visitor at the property and was cleaning it out possibly to move in herself.
In January 2010, Kampusch said she had retained the house because it was such a big part of her formative years, also stating that she would fill in the cellar if it is ever sold, adamant that it will never become a macabre museum to her lost adolescence. In 2011, the cellar was indeed filled in, though as of 2013[update] Kampusch still owned the house.
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- Kathrin Röggla: Die Beteiligten, Theaterstück, 2009
- Sirny-Kampusch, Brigitta: Verzweifelte Jahre, ein Leben ohne Natascha. Aufgezeichnet von Andrea Fehringer und Thomas Köpf, Ueberreuter, Wien 2007, ISBN 978-3-8000-7295-8.
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