August 23

This Day in History

Crime

Aug 23, 2006:

Austrian teen escapes after eight years in captivity

Natascha Kampusch, an Austrian teenager who was kidnapped at age 10, escapes from her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil, after more than eight years. Shortly after her escape, Priklopil committed suicide.

On March 2, 1998, Kampusch was abducted from a street in Vienna while walking to school. One of Austria’s largest missing-person searches followed, during which time authorities checked hundreds of white minivans after a witness reported seeing Kampusch being dragged into a white minivan. Police interviewed Priklopil, the owner of a minivan, but didn’t believe he was a suspect. Kampusch was kept in a secret, windowless basement room at Priklopil’s house outside of Vienna, where she was physically and sexually abused by her captor. As time went by, she was allowed into the rest of the house and would cook and clean for Priklopil. He gave her books and a radio and she managed to educate herself.

Early in the afternoon of August 23, 2006, Kampusch, then 18, was vacuuming Priklopil’s car when he walked away from the noise to answer a call on his cell phone. Kampusch used the opportunity to escape and ran to the house of a neighbor, who called police. Several hours later, Priklopil, a communications technician in his 40s, killed himself by jumping in front of a train. Overnight, Kampusch became an international celebrity. She was articulate and seemingly poised, but hadn’t grown much or gained a lot of weight since her abduction. Kampusch initially made statements indicating she felt sorry for her captor, leading to speculation she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Her mother later claimed that Kampusch carried around a photo of Priklopil’s coffin.

 

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