Tue, Aug 29, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Austrian kidnapped girl says captor `part of her life'

AP , VIENNA

Austrian psychologist Max Friedrich talks to media while holding a letter by kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch in his hand during a press conference in Vienna yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

An Austrian teenager who spent more than eight years in a dingy underground cell until her dramatic escape last week issued a statement yesterday defending her captor as "part of my life" and insisting she didn't miss anything during her long ordeal.

In remarks read to reporters by a psychologist, 18-year-old Natascha Kampusch said she understood what a "strong impression" her case has made and how she is faring since she bolted to freedom last Wednesday, but she pleaded with journalists, "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."

Police said yesterday they had only begun to question Kampusch about her abduction at age 10 in March 1998 by Wolfgang Priklopil, who killed himself within hours of her escape by throwing himself in front of a commuter train.

Police Major General Gerhard Lang of the Federal Criminal Investigations Bureau said investigators are continuing to follow up on "every lead" in the case, which until last week was one of the country's greatest unsolved criminal mysteries.

Although authorities have re-leased 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, read by criminal psychologist and professor Max Friedrich.

"It's my room, and not destined for the public to see," Kampusch said.

She also denied ever calling Priklopil her master, even though she said the 44-year-old communications technician wanted her to.

"He was not my master. I was equally strong," her statement read. "I didn't cry after the escape."

"In principle, I don't have the feeling that I missed something," Kampusch said, but acknowledged that her youth was different to those of others. Still, she said, she was spared of some things -- such as not starting to smoke and drink or having "false friends."

On a typical day, she would have breakfast with Priklopil, she said. The rest of the day would be spent doing various things around the house.

"Housework, reading, TV, talking, cooking. That was it, for years. Everything tied to the fear of being alone," she said.

She used an Austrian expression to indicate that at times Priklopil treated her very well, but at other times very badly.

"He carried out the kidnapping by himself. Everything was already prepared," she said, adding that they decorated her "room" together.

"In my eyes his death would not have been necessary," she said. "He was a part of my life, that's why I also mourn for him in a certain way."

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