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22.20 4 May 2017


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An Austrian woman has described the 'culture shock' of freedom after being held captive for more than eight years.

Natascha Kampusch was abducted at the age of 10, and held in a basement by her abductor Wolfgang PÅ™iklopil.

She managed to escape in August 2006, and her new book 10 Years of Freedom recounts her experiences since.

Natascha spoke to Sarah McInerney on Newstalk Drive about her ordeal and how she has readjusted to normal life.

She described how she managed to escape when PÅ™iklopil was distracted by a phone call while she was washing his car.

She recalled: "I escaped, and I asked several people for help. They didn't want to help me because some [people] thought maybe I'm a crazy person, or maybe a thief because I asked them for their cellphones. I asked them also to call the police, but they didn't want to help me."

Even when she received help from an elderly neighbour, it took effort to convince her. "Maybe she thought the kidnapper could come to her home and kill her," Natascha suggested.

She spoke about her experiences after the escape.

"It was like a culture shock, it was a little bit bizarre. I was so euphoric and so happy to have my parents back, and my sisters, and my nephews, and my nieces. Everything was like being in a very comfortable cloud, but it was also a kind of shock.

"There were lots of people, and also the media, and the journalists, and paparazzi. So I had my own security staff in the first week."

"They went through such a long period in fear"

Natascha explained that despite the amazing feeling of reuniting with her parents, after a few months she noticed the impact the case had had on them.

"They went through such a long period in fear, and in anger," she said. "Maybe they tried to give up some times, and it was so hard to cope for them. It broke my heart."

Natascha's kidnapper took his own life shortly after she escaped. More than a decade later, how does she feel about the man who kept her captive?

She observed: "I think it was so important to me to never lose the contact with this person, so it was necessary to survive. So I had that kind of relationship that a victim and a kidnapper could have.

"He said [...] that he never wanted to go to jail. It was always his fear to be in jail [...] I was in that basement, and he was a free man - but I think he wasn't free, because he had to hide [his crime] from the world."

Natascha has revisited the building where she was held on several occasions.

"I think it's always a very frozen atmosphere there, and I feel always uncomfortable. I try to leave the place immediately, and most of the time it is a success.

"I'm happy that I went through all of those years without any harm but my memories," she concluded.


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