Austria Abduction Victim Defends Captor as 'Part of My Life'

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The Austrian teenager held in an underground cell for more than eight years insisted Monday she didn't miss out on much in captivity and was even spared some temptations and torments of adolescence, such as smoking, drinking and dealing with "bad friends."

On her fifth full day of freedom, 18-year-old Natascha Kampusch broke her silence in a statement that appeared to lend credence to the theory she may have suffered from "Stockholm Syndrome," where victims cope by identifying with their captors.

Kampusch, who was 10 when she was snatched off a street on her way to school and imprisoned in a cramped, windowless cell, described what she went through at the hands of Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, who killed himself within hours of her escape by throwing himself beneath a commuter train.

Kampusch refused to discuss allegations of abuse but indicated that Priklopil at times treated her well, but at other times very badly.

"I don't want to, and won't, answer any questions about intimate or personal details," she said. "I will punish breaches of personal boundaries, whoever crosses voyeuristic boundaries. Whoever tries that better prepare themselves for something."

She described the man who enslaved her as "a part of my life," adding "that's why I also mourn for him in a certain way."

Kampusch also said she refused to comply with Priklopil's requests to call him "master."

"He was not my master. I was just as strong," she said in the statement, read to reporters by a psychologist.

Police said Monday they have only just begun to question Kampusch about her March 1998 abduction and many questions remain unanswered about the case, which until her escape last Wednesday was one of Austria's greatest unsolved criminal mysteries.

Police Maj. Gen. Gerhard Lang of the Federal Criminal Investigations Bureau said investigators continued to follow every lead and had intensified their search for clues.

Lang said Kampusch knew from the first day of her captivity that she was in Strasshof, a peaceful community north of Vienna, where children play freely on the streets and houses with flower pots are close together.

Because construction plans to the house where Kampusch was held were missing, investigators could not say for certain that it had no other hidden rooms, Lang said.

Kampusch said she slipped to safety while Priklopil was busy with a cell phone call and she was cleaning his car in the garden with a vacuum cleaner. She has been at an undisclosed location since.

At the time of her escape, she weighed just 92 1/2 pounds — exactly her weight when she vanished as a freckle-faced 10-year-old, the news magazine Profil reported.

"In principle, I don't have the feeling that I missed out on something," Kampusch said in the statement, reflecting on her youth, which she acknowledged was different to those of others.

Still, she said, "I was spared some things — didn't start smoking and drinking and didn't have any bad friends."

On a typical day, she said, she would have breakfast with Priklopil, a communications technician who she said usually didn't work. The rest of the day would be spent doing various things around the house.

"Housework, reading, watching television, talking, cooking. That was it, for years. Everything tied to the fear of loneliness," she said.

Although authorities have released photographs and video footage of the cramped, windowless basement cell where Kampusch was kept, she referred to it simply as "my room" in her statement, which was read by criminal psychologist Max Friedrich.

Police images showed the room contained, among other things, books, clothes, a television, a bed, a toilet and a sink. Investigators say she also was allowed to listen to the radio and watch some videos, and with the help of a book, taught herself how to knit.

Police were in contact with Priklopil after Kampusch's disappearance because he owned a white van — the type of vehicle a witness said the girl was dragged into. But investigators believed him when he said he was alone at home working on construction at the time of the abduction.

"He was convincing, friendly, cooperative. One didn't see any reason to doubt his statements," Lang told the Austria Press Agency. At the time, a photo was taken of the van, which contained building materials and construction waste.

Austrian television reported Monday that Priklopil sought medical attention the day after the kidnapping for an almost-severed finger he claimed got shut in the door of a safe. It said he wound up back in the hospital about a year later for bruises he said he suffered while digging a ditch.

In her note, Kampusch said she understood the "extreme curiosity" about what she endured and how she is faring, but she pleaded: "Please leave me alone for a while."

"Everyone wants to ask intimate questions, (but) they don't concern anyone," she said. "I feel good where I'm at now."

"Many people are taking care of me," she wrote, adding that she has been in telephone contact with her family. "Give me time until I can give my own account."

CountryWatch: Austria