September 7, 2010 / 4:16 PM / 7 years ago

Austrian kidnap victim delivers page-turning memoir

4 Min Read

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

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.

An English translation is due for release on Thursday.

Run, Damn It, Run!

Kampusch suffered sexual and mental abuse at the hands of Priklopil, who during day and night would repeatedly shout through an intercom system to her cell that she must "obey" him.

He shaved her head and burned her hair because he was scared the police would find DNA evidence of her. He also starved her.

"With such methods the kidnapper kept me weak and kept me captive with a mixture of dependency and gratitude (for food)."

She tried to kill herself several times.

Her account suggests that she had been close to discovery on more than one occasion during the eight-year period, including when Priklopil's car was stopped by police and on a ski trip.

A reopened investigation earlier this year concluded that Priklopil acted alone to abduct her.

Austria reeled over an abuse scandal again in 2008 when it emerged that Josef Fritzl had held his daughter Elisabeth in a cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, one of which he murdered through neglect. He is in jail for life.

Austrian media have reported that both Elisabeth and her father are also penning their life stories.

Kampusch escaped four years ago when she was vacuuming Priklopil's car and he was distracted by a cell phone call.

"I was alone. For the first time since the beginning of my imprisonment the kidnapper had taken his eyes off me," she wrote. Kampusch recounts freezing in shock before her survival instinct kicked in.

"Run, run, damn it, run!" she told herself.

Since her escape, Kampusch has chaired her own talk show and made several carefully planned media appearances. A film of her story is set for release in 2012.

"Only now with these lines can I draw a line under this," she writes in the final chapter of her book. "And now I can really say: I am free."

Editing by Paul Casciato

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