VIENNA, Austria – The Austrian teen who survived 8 1/2 years of captivity in an underground cell is exhausted after giving a flurry of interviews about her ordeal and needs up to 10 days of rest, a psychiatrist treating her said Thursday.
Natascha Kampusch needs "peace and protection" after detailing her kidnapping and eventual escape in a nationally televised interview Wednesday evening and two other interviews with an Austrian newspaper and a magazine, said Max Friedrich, who specializes in treating troubled children and youth.
Kampusch, 18, vividly described the events that led to her dash for freedom on Aug. 23 from Wolfgang Priklopil, the man who abducted her off a street while she was walking to school in March 1998 and imprisoned her in the tiny, windowless cell beneath his garage.
She bolted away while Priklopil, 44, was distracted with a cell phone call. Within hours, he killed himself by jumping in front of a commuter train.
Friedrich, who heads a 10-member team of psychiatrists and psychologists attending to Kampusch, said it would take her years to fully recover, explaining that she "has not adequately lived many phases of her life" and was still grappling with her identity as a free person.
Looking surprisingly poised and collected considering her age and ordeal, Kampusch — wearing a loose, glittery purple blouse and a pink satin scarf over her strawberry blond hair — calmly recalled the day she was taken as a freckle-faced 10-year-old and the horror of being locked into her dark underground cell for the first time.
"I was very distraught and very angry," she told Austrian public broadcaster ORF in her first broadcast interview.
Early in her captivity, Kampusch said she threw water bottles at the wall in frustration and despair and would have "gone crazy" if Priklopil had not occasionally allowed her upstairs, although those trips did not start until six months after her abduction.
She felt claustrophobic in the small space and the wheezing of a ventilator that pumped air into her cell was "unbearable," Kampusch said in the interview — a 40-minute prerecorded account that gave Austrians their first glimpse of the young woman.
The interview, parts of which were rebroadcast worldwide, also captivated many viewers around the globe.
"A country at a standstill, silent, listening to the worst of reality shows," the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra said Thursday, describing how the case — for years Austria's greatest unsolved criminal mystery — has entranced the alpine republic.
Kampusch said she celebrated her birthday, Christmas and Easter with her captor, whom she referred to during the interview as "Mr. Priklopil." He gave her gifts, she said.
Earlier Wednesday, the weekly magazine News and the mass-circulation daily Kronen Zeitung published separate interviews in which Kampusch said she "thought only of escape" during her entire ordeal.
News said it interviewed Kampusch at Vienna's General Hospital, where a cardiologist examined her for possible heart trouble. She said she had suffered throughout her captivity from heart palpitations that at times made her dizzy and blurred her vision.
Kampusch also said she often did not get enough to eat. She reportedly weighed just 92 pounds at the time of her escape — exactly her weight when she was kidnapped.
During a previous escape attempt, she said she once tried to jump out of Priklopil's car, but he "held me back and then sped away."