Kidnapped by telecommunications technician Wolfgang Priklopil in March 1998 and confined for most of her time to an underground storage area beneath the garage of his home, Kampusch managed to escape on August 23, when he was preoccupied with a telephone call.
Kampusch recounted how after several years of captivity, Priklopil would sometimes take her outside but “would always keep me walking in front of him, so that he could keep his eyes always on me.”
A day after her first televised interview two weeks after her escape many Austrians are still reeling with the minutiae of her story.
“Natascha speaks,” screamed the cover of the news magazine Osterreich while the journal News declared “The Big Interview” on Thursday. The daily Der Standard alluded to her trauma in their lead story headline by simply saying “Now she needs rest”.
“All of Austria is shocked … my friends, family, none of us can believe what this girl went through,” Olga Bere, a travel accessories specialist, told Aljazeera.net.
It was only several months after Kampusch was first kidnapped at the age of 10 that she was allowed to take a bath in an upstairs bathroom.
She said despair overcame her when she learned that Austrian police had shifted their focus from finding her to finding her corpse weeks into her captivity.
When Priklopil received visitors, such as his mother, Kampusch would be confined in the underground makeshift prison for days on end.
A few hours after her escape last month and eventual retrieval by police, Priklopil committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a commuter train. His grisly and bloody death has added yet another dimension to the shock among Austrians.
But despite her interviews on television and to local press, many are left with unanswered questions.
For example, some are asking why she did not scream for help when Priklopil took her outside for errands or why she didn’t simply run away from him.
“I once tried to jump out of the car we were in,” she said in a newspaper interview earlier this week. “But he caught me and pulled me back in and sped off.”
She did not elaborate further.
Austrian police have also hinted that there may have been a sexual component to her captivity. When asked about it, Kampusch refused to comment and asked that intimate details of her captivity be kept private and respected.
Early news reports quoted her saying she was forced to call Priklopil ‘master’.
Okokwe Ignatius, a hospitality services worker, says the story does not add up.
“I think she had an affair with the man,” he said.
“She was with him for eight years, he raised her, I don’t think she is saying everything,” he added.
A media frenzy
Kampusch told Austrian ORF TV that she wished to no longer dwell on the past or on her captivity preferring to plan for her resumption of school studies and studying journalism in university.
But media observer L. Raul Hoffman says that while the media focus surrounding Kampusch may abate in the next two weeks, it is likely she will give another interview and the cycle will start again.
“Yes, this is her first interview only. But this is too much … television, print media, the internet boards, it is all about her now.”
Writing in Der Standard, columnist Michael M?seneder called her “a woman who knows more about life than most contemporaries” exalting her eloquence and poise. M?seneder speculates that she has now become a public figure for most Austrians, and will be unable to shake the media frenzy.