STRASSHOF, Austria – It was just another order by the man who enslaved her for eight years, this time to vacuum his car. But Natascha Kampusch glimpsed a tiny window of opportunity — then bolted to freedom while her abductor was busy with a cell phone call.
Friday's police description of Kampusch's last moments in captivity added another tiny piece of the puzzle in Austria's most celebrated criminal case in recent memory, which began with the mysterious 1998 disappearance of a 10-year-old girl from an outlying Vienna district.
Police also said that DNA samples had confirmed what Kampusch's parents had already known in their first tearful moments of reunion Wednesday — the pale, thin young woman facing them was their daughter who went missing eight years ago.
She had been given up for dead until she resurfaced Wednesday, frantically asking for help at the door of a neighbor of her captor.
"We were only looking for a corpse," Interior Minister Liese Prokop acknowledged to reporters in Vienna Friday.
Since her reappearance, police have cobbled together a basic picture of what must have happened to her. She was snatched while on her way to school by a man identified by police as Wolfgang Priklopil, kept confined or at close quarters by her abductor and managed to flee when he dropped his guard.
While Kampusch has been sequestered from media, some papers claimed to have been able to talk to her Friday.
Reportedly describing her abduction, she was cited as saying by the mass-circulation Kronen Zeitung tabloid: "He dragged me into his car and said, 'stay quiet lie down, or something bad will happen to you."'
The daily also said she "slept well" during her first night in freedom and described her breakfast, shared with police — croissants, orange juice, salty rolls, butter, chocolate spread, marmalade and muesli.
But with Kampusch at an undisclosed location for careful police and psychologist questioning and her relatives refusing to talk to media after initial outburst of joyful interviews, many more questions remained to be answered about what happened — and why — to the girl who grew to womanhood in a tiny windowless basement lockup.
Erich Zwettler, the head of Austria's federal police, told reporters that the woman escaped in an unguarded moment while her abductor stepped away from her to talk on his cell phone so that he could hear better while she was vacuuming his car. Police originally had said she had escaped when a small metal trap door of her underground cell was left open.
Law enforcement officials refused to directly confirm that Kampusch had been sexually abused. But Zwettler said: "I do not assume that the suspicion ... is false."
Police psychologists suggested Kampusch, who reportedly was initially forced to call her abductor "Master," was likely suffering from so-called "Stockholm Syndrome," where victims adapt to what would insufferable situations by identifying with their captors — as did those who gave the condition the name after being kidnapped by bank robbers in the Swedish capital in 1973.
But local police official Adolf Brenner said Kampusch appeared in relatively good spirits, saying her "fairly large vocabulary" suggested she might even have been schooled by her captor.
Still, some key questions that could only be provided by the man who abducted Kampusch will likely never be answered. Priklopil, a 44-year-old communications technician, and the chief suspect, killed himself Wednesday a few hours after she escaped by throwing himself in front of a Vienna commuter train.
His town, Strasshof, is a semi-rural community just north of Vienna, where tidy houses adorned with flower boxes are mostly set close together. Children play freely in the streets and doors are left open. Neighbors said they were shocked by the reports and had seen no signs of anything to raise suspicion.
But as investigators busied themselves inside Priklopil's house, some residents questioned Friday if they could have done more to end her ordeal earlier.
Stefan Freiberger, a retiree in his 60s, recalled his daughter and a friend telling him that Priklopil exposed himself in front of them a few years back as the two girls rode their bikes past the back of his house. He said he contemplated going to the police — but didn't.
Priklopil's house had a menacing aura, Freiberger said.
"Whenever I went by everything was closed," he said, recalling a house characterized by shuttered windows, closed gates and a well-manicured lawn.
Others painted a kinder picture of the man some Austrian dailies have labeled "The Monster."
Neighbor Josef Jantschek told of being invited by Priklopil to pick apricots in his garden and then stepping inside the house for a few minutes of small talk.
"Everything was very tidy," he told the daily Oesterreich Heute.
But inside the garage, a narrow concealed stairway hid a sordid secret.
Photos released by police of Kampusch's cell showed a small, cluttered room with the concrete stairs leading down to it from an entrance so small it would have to be crawled through. Another photo showed a metal hatch that sealed the windowless, underground room, complete with a bed, a toilet, a sink and books scattered across a small desk.
It was unclear how much of her time the young woman spent in confinement, with some neighbors suggesting she was allowed to accompany Priklopil at least briefly by the time she was in her teens.
Psychiatrist Max Friedrich speculated that Kampusch was allowed on a longer leash because her captor had less interest in her as a woman than as an easily controllable child.
Retiree Maria Rath remembered seeing a young woman in his car a few years ago. "Finally he found a girlfriend," the daily Kleine Zeitung quoted her as saying.
She did not see her again until Wednesday.
"When I came home, there was police everywhere suddenly," she said. "And there was this same woman in the middle, wearing a red dress."