Austrian kidnapping case revisited | News | DW | 13.07.2012
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Austrian kidnapping case revisited

Austria has enlisted aid from Germany and the US to further investigate the kidnapping of Natascha Kampusch. The case of the Austran girl, abducted at the age of 10, drew worldwide attention after she escaped in 2006.

Austrian investigators, supported by members of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office and America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), are set to reopen the case of an Austrian girl who was held against her will in a basement cell for a period of eight years, before she escaped in 2006.

The investigation team was convened after a parliamentary inquiry determined that serious errors had been made by previous investigators and recommended a re-examination. The parliamentary panel found that the alleged kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, may have had one or more helpers, a recurring claim based on the account of a young girl who claimed to have witnessed Kampusch's abduction.

"If they find out that there really have been some mistakes, then we can learn for the future," Austrian justice ministry spokeswoman Sabine Mlcoch said. "There will always be some theories about what could have happened," she added. "There are always some critics who say you could have done this, and this, and this."

Snatched on the way to school

Kampusch was kidnapped on her way to school on March 2, 1998, and escaped on Aug. 23, 2006. Priklopil killed himself that same day by throwing himself under a train. The abduction provoked national anguish and one of the most intensive police inquests in Austrian history.

Natascha Kampusch on the series she briefly hosted following her escape.

Natascha Kampusch parlayed her fame into new endeavors such as her own talk show.

Mlcoch said that the case was not being reopened but that the committee, set up on Friday, would look at how the investigation was conducted. She added that the government had agreed to the parliamentary panel's recommendation for the sake of transparency.

"We want to show that we have a clear conscience: We know that we've done everything possible," Mlcoch said.

In her 2010 memoir, "3,096 Days," Kampusch recounted how Priklopil starved her, beat her, sexually abused her and forced her to clean his house half-naked, calling her his "slave."

Kampusch, however, has also criticized police for their handling of the case. Officers interviewed Priklopil just days after Kampusch disappeared, and even inspected the van he allegedly used to kidnap her, as well as his home in Strasshof, on the outskirts of Vienna, but they later abandoned the lead. Kampusch, who is now 24, has said, though, that she knew of no accomplices, and has criticized media and politicians who doubt her version of events.

In 2008, Austria was shocked by another abuse scandal when it emerged that Josef Fritzl had held his daughter Elisabeth in a cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, one of which he was found to have killed through neglect. Fritzl is currently serving a life sentence.

mkg/pfd (dpa, AFP, Reuters)