May 31, 2008 / 12:18 AM / 10 years ago

Austrian abductee Kampusch turns TV chat show host

VIENNA (Reuters) - Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian who spent eight years locked in a windowless cell after being abducted in Vienna, turns TV chat show host on Sunday when her debut program airs on national television.

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

In “Natascha Kampusch meets...” Kampusch, whose case returned to the spotlight after revelations that another Austrian woman spent 24 years locked in a cellar, interviews former Austrian motor racing star Niki Lauda, who comments they have both had extreme lives.

“Of course I have realized I will always be different, but what I have experienced hasn’t affected me in the way people think,” Kampusch tells Lauda in the pre-recorded show which was screened to journalists on Friday.

The first of six episodes of the monthly chat show is to be broadcast at prime time on the private PULS 4 channel.

Snatched on her way to school aged 10, Kampusch was held in a cell beneath a house garage from 1998 until her dash to freedom in 2006. Her captor committed suicide after her escape.

Interest in 20-year-old Kampusch’s psychological well-being and adjustment to freedom has only intensified since the case of Elisabeth Fritzl came to light.

Fritzl was held by her own father for 24 years in a windowless prison and bore him seven children, three of whom shared her captivity.

The family are now under careful supervision in a hospital and have chosen so far to avoid the media despite massive public interest.

Kampusch by contrast gave a carefully arranged television interview shortly after her escape, and her media appearances since then have been carefully managed by her team of advisors.


In a statement released by PULS 4, Kampusch said of her show: “I am not a host in the proper sense, but I want to be a dialogue partner for my guests who can ask me questions as well.”

During the debut show, Kampusch asks Lauda about his early life, his near-fatal motor racing accident and personal life. At times she appears tentative and softly-spoken, but makes frequent eye-contact with Lauda and carefully considers his responses.

“I was interested to see how you would manage your first interview...I’ve been interviewed by many professionals and they all ask the same things,” Lauda tells her at the show’s start.

Although the show was criticized as formulaic and lacking in spontaneity by some in the audience but commentators say it will likely attract a huge number of viewers.

“Recently the role of victim has weighed on her. She told us she wanted to do other things and show what she is capable of,” said Kampusch’s media advisor Dusan Uzelac.

“She doesn’t just want to be the girl in the cellar.”

Kampusch, who recently bought the house where she was held captive, has said she also wants to work on charity projects.

Stories continue to circulate about the nature of her relationship with her captor and her relations with her family.

“There has been a lot of publicity about me in the past months. Some things are simply not true. In my own show... I have the possibility to take an active part,” she said in her statement.

A handout photo shows kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch talking to former Austrian Formula One champion Niki Lauda in Vienna May 30, 2008. REUTERS/PULS4/Handout

Editing by Jon Boyle

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