August 30, 2006

Captor’s colleague says he met “happy” Austrian girl

By Karin Strohecker

VIENNA (Reuters) - A colleague of the man who held Natascha
Kampusch captive for eight years in a cell under his garage
said on Wednesday he met the Austrian woman during her ordeal
and she had looked happy.

Ernst Holzapfel told a news conference how he was
introduced to Kampusch in mid-July when kidnapper Wolfgang
Priklopil stopped by to borrow a trailer for his car.

"I opened the door and he introduced me to the young woman
saying she was an acquaintance, but not mentioning her name,"
he said. "Of course I had no idea who she was.

"I shook her hand, she said politely 'hello'," Holzapfel
said. "She looked happy and content."

Holzapfel said he had been surprised to see his 44-year-old
colleague with a woman and had wondered whether she was his

"I always thought if you worked with someone for years you
should know them," he said. "The whole time I didn't notice a
thing. I never thought something so horrible could happen."

One of Austria's most notorious crimes have mesmerized the
nation since Kampusch re-appeared last Wednesday.

Priklopil kidnapped 10-year-old Kampusch on her way to
school in 1998 and killed himself shortly after her escape. She
fled when he was distracted by a phone call while she was
vacuuming his car.


Kampusch has said she mourned her kidnapper's suicide as he
had been part of her life. Austrian police said she had "sexual
contact" with Priklopil, without elaborating.

Priklopil had been a partner in Holzapfel's construction
business and over the years they renovated many flats and
commercial premises together.

"He worked on ventilation and sanitation systems,"
Holzapfel said.

Holzapfel had also been several times in Priklopil's garage
but had thought nothing of the repair recess in the floor which
led to the vaulted entrance to Kampusch's fully-equipped six
sq-meter cell.

"He liked to work on cars," said Holzapfel.

Kampusch is being looked after at a secret location,
shielded from the media frenzy, and is believed to have come
down with "Stockholm Syndrome" -- a psychological condition in
which prisoners begin to identify with their captors.

"In those 8-1/2 years she must have grown together with him
-- mentally or psychologically," said her father Ludwig Koch in
an interview with German broadcaster N24 on Tuesday.

Priklopil had also told Kampusch that he had asked for a
ransom but could not reach her father, Koch said.

Koch hoped his daughter could be happy again and said death
had been her captor's most lenient punishment.

"He must have been a pitiful creature whose only way to
exist was by snatching someone else," Koch said. "I feel hate
and I feel pity."