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Kidnapped girl compares herself to caged chickens

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Sept. 6, 2006, 2:06PM
Austrian discusses years of captivity

By WILLIAM J. KOLE Associated Press Writer
2006 The Associated Press

VIENNA, Austria The young Austrian woman imprisoned for 8 1/2 years in an underground cell "thought only of escape" during her entire ordeal, and once tried to jump out of her captor's car, she told a magazine and a newspaper in interviews published Wednesday.

Natascha Kampusch, who bolted to freedom on Aug. 23 while her captor busied himself with a cell phone call, told the Austrian weekly magazine News she repeatedly asked herself: "Why, of all the many millions of people, did this have to happen to me?"

The interviews hit the newsstands a few hours before a TV interview with Kampusch, now 18.

"I thought only of escape," she told the magazine two weeks after she won her freedom by taking advantage of a phone call that distracted Wolfgang Priklopil. She ran to neighbors, who called police.

Priklopil, 44, killed himself within hours of her escape by jumping in front of a commuter train.

In a separate interview with the mass-circulation daily Kronen Zeitung, Kampusch said she once tried to jump out of Priklopil's car, "but he held me back and then sped away." She did not say when that failed attempt occurred.

"I always had the thought: Surely I didn't come into the world so I could be locked up and my life completely ruined," Kampusch was quoted as saying. "I always felt like a poor chicken in a hen house. You saw on TV how small my cell was _ it was a place to despair."

News printed a large color photograph of a pensive-looking Kampusch on its cover, showing her with piercing blue eyes and a pink kerchief covering part of her strawberry blond hair.

The magazine said it interviewed Kampusch at Vienna's General Hospital, where a cardiologist examined her for possible heart trouble. She said she had suffered throughout her captivity from heart palpitations that at times made her dizzy and rendered her memory of some events "fuzzy."

Kampusch also said she often did not get enough to eat. Another Austrian magazine, Profil, had reported that at the time of her escape she weighed just 92 pounds _ exactly her weight when she was abducted off a street while walking to school as a freckle-faced 10-year-old.

Kampusch called her escape "completely spontaneous."

"I was there behind the gate to the garden and I felt dizzy. I realized for the first time how weak I really was," she said.

But Kampusch added that she felt well enough _ "physically, mentally and no heart problems" _ to attempt another escape.

Once out on the street, "I saw a window open and someone busy in a kitchen, and I asked the woman to call the police," she said.

Kampusch told News she has made a smooth transition to freedom "and now have no trouble living together with other people."

On Wednesday evening, a 20-minute prerecorded interview with Kampusch was to air nationwide on public broadcaster ORF, which said her face would be visible unless she asks for a last-minute electronic retouching. Previously, the station had suggested she would appear behind a screen or with her face otherwise altered so she would not be recognizable on the street.

"People will see her," said Christoph Feurstein, the journalist who interviewed her Tuesday at an undisclosed location.

Feurstein said Kampusch spoke "from the gut" in the TV interview and wore a headscarf, which he described as more of a fashion accessory than an attempt at a disguise.

Among the more touching moments in the interview, according to Feurstein: Kampusch describing the stillness of the cell when she was first thrust inside, and her account of how she once struggled in vain to make eye contact with people when her captor took her shopping.

Although the interviews released Wednesday included the first images of Kampusch since her escape, they were not the first time she has been heard from.

Last week, Kampusch issued an eloquent handwritten statement that gave details of her captivity, spent for the most part in the tiny, windowless cell in the dingy basement of Priklopil's home in the Vienna suburb of Strasshof. That statement contained some surprises: Kampusch said she did not feel she missed out on much during her years as a prisoner, and she said she "mourned in a certain way" for Priklopil.

ORF said Kampusch had decided which questions to answer and had refused to be asked anything intimate. Police have said she may have had sexual contact with her captor, but have refused to elaborate.

Kampusch told News she regretted that Priklopil committed suicide "because he could have explained so much more to me and to the police," but added that she no longer wished to talk about him.

Kampusch also told the magazine she loved her parents, who divorced after she was taken, and denied there was any controversy. Psychologists treating her have said she has been in touch with her mother, but has not asked for her father since they were briefly reunited after her escape.

She said she wants to complete her high school education and is considering a range of possible careers, including journalism, psychology, acting and art, and that she has not yet decided whether to write a book about her ordeal.

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