Austrian teen held for over 8 years relives moment of capture

The 44-year-old communications technician killed himself within hours of her escape by jumping in front of a commuter train.

austrian teen 88 (photo credit: )
austrian teen 88
(photo credit: )
The Austrian teenager imprisoned for 8 1/2 years described in a nationally broadcast television interview the horror of being locked into her dark underground cell for the first time. "I was very distraught and very angry," Natascha Kampusch, now 18, told Austrian public broadcaster ORF in her first televised interview on Wednesday since bolting to freedom Aug. 23 while her captor busied himself with a cell phone call. Early in her captivity, Kampusch said she threw water bottles at the wall in frustration and despair and would have "gone crazy" if kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil had not occasionally allowed her upstairs six months after she was snatched off the street as a freckle-faced 10-year-old. 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 whose nightmare entranced the nation. For the first two years, Priklopil did not allow her to watch the news but then let her listen to the radio, Kampusch said. She was also allowed to read some newspapers, she said. "He read it, I read it ... He always controlled everything," Kampusch said, describing how Priklopil would make sure she hadn't written any messages on the pages of the material he let her read. "He was very paranoid," she said. Since her escape, Kampusch said she had slipped away incognito to enjoy some ice cream. "It was nice to smile at people, and no one recognized me," she said, dabbing with a tissue at her eyes, which ORF said were sensitive to light because she was confined to darkness for such a long time. 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. "I think he had a very guilty conscience but he tried to repress it," 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 and once tried to jump out of Priklopil's car. The 44-year-old communications technician killed himself within hours of her escape by jumping in front of a commuter train. When Priklopil took her out on errands, "he always wanted me to walk in front of him, not behind him," apparently to minimize the chances of her escaping, she said. "I couldn't confide in anyone because he always threatened he would do something to that person if I said something, that he would kill them ... I couldn't risk that," she said. Kampusch told the newspaper how she attempted to leap from the car, but Priklopil "held me back and then sped away." She did not specify when that escape attempt occurred, saying only that she felt "it was much too risky" to try to get away because she feared Priklopil would kill her if she failed. That, she said, didn't stop her from dreaming about beheading him with an ax. "I always had the thought: Surely I didn't come into the world so I could be locked up and my life completely ruined," Kampusch was quoted as saying by News. "I always felt like a poor chicken in a hen house. You saw on TV how small my cell was _ it was a place to despair." Looking forward, Kampusch said she wanted to finish her education and maybe become an actress. She said she had a "certain responsibility" and that she planned to set up a foundation that would sponsor aid projects, including one focusing on the fate of women who have disappeared in Mexico. News printed a large color photograph of a pensive-looking Kampusch on its cover, showing her with piercing blue eyes and a pink scarf covering part of her strawberry blonde hair. In the TV interview, she wore a loose, glittery purple blouse and the scarf. The magazine 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. It was unclear whether she has been diagnosed with any chronic problems. Kampusch also said she often did not get enough to eat. Another Austrian magazine, Profil, had reported that at the time of her escape she weighed just 42 kilograms (92 pounds) _ exactly her weight when she was taken on March 2, 1998, while walking to school. Kampusch called her escape from her captor's house in suburban Strasshof "completely spontaneous." "I was there behind the gate to the garden and I felt dizzy. I realized for the first time how weak I really was," she said. But Kampusch added that she felt well enough _ "physically, mentally and no heart problems" _ to make a run for it. Once out on the street, "I saw a window open and someone busy in a kitchen, and I asked the woman to call the police," she said. At first, she said, the woman refused to let her inside: "She didn't want me to step on her lawn." ORF said Kampusch had decided which questions to answer and had refused to be asked anything intimate. Police have said she may have had sexual contact with her captor, but have refused to elaborate. Kampusch told News she regretted that Priklopil committed suicide, "because he could have explained so much more to me and to the police," but added that she no longer wished to talk about him. Kampusch also told the magazine she loved her parents, who divorced after she was taken, and denied there was any controversy. Psychologists treating her have said she has been in touch with her mother, but has not asked for her father since they were briefly reunited after her escape. "It was worse for them than it was for me. They thought I was dead," she said.