Austrian kidnap victim delivers page-turning memoir

Tue Sep 7, 2010 12:40pm EDT
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By Sylvia Westall

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian schoolgirl Natascha Kampusch survived the start of her eight-year captivity in an underground cell by asking her kidnapper to read bedtime tales in an "illusion of normality," according to her new book.

Kampusch's memoirs "3,096 Days," which appeared in Vienna on Tuesday, recount how her captor Wolfgang Priklopil starved her, beat her so badly that she could not lie on her back and forced her to clean his house half naked, calling her his "slave."

But she survived the ordeal using her "childhood instincts," judging when to give in to her "mentally sick" kidnapper and when to stand up to him. She escaped in August 2006 and Priklopil committed suicide hours later.

Snatched in Vienna on her way to school when she was 10 years old, Kampusch said she forced herself to regress mentally to the age of four or five in order to cope with her first nights in the windowless cell under the house near the Austrian capital where Priklopil held her.

"It was a desperate attempt to create a small refuge in a hopeless situation," Kampusch, now 22, wrote in the German version of her memoirs.

"When the kidnapper came back to the cell I asked him to stay with me, put me to bed properly and read me a bedtime story. I even asked him for a good-night kiss, like my mother would give me...anything to preserve the illusion of normality."

She said she was petrified that he would kill her.

Kampusch kept notebooks in diary form during the later years of her imprisonment which helped form the basis of her book, composed with the help of two ghost writers.   Continued...

<p>Kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch leaves a civil court after testifying in Graz, Austria, May 15, 2008. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader</p>