VIENNA (Reuters Life!) - Hundreds of fans of Natascha Kampusch crammed into a Vienna bookstore late on Thursday to hear the kidnap-victim-turned-author read from her newly published memoirs and recount her eight years of imprisonment.
Snatched on her way to school when she was 10 years old by Wolfgang Priklopil, Kampusch was held in a windowless cell under his house outside Vienna before escaping in August 2006. He committed suicide hours later.
Kampusch's memoirs "3,096 Days," which appeared in Austria earlier this week, recount how her captor starved her, beat her, sexually abused her and forced her to clean his house half naked, calling her his "slave."
But they also show how Kampusch, now 22, survived by obeying her kidnapper, learning to see him as a disturbed human being and avoid being "consumed with hate."
Kampusch will travel to London on Sunday to promote an English translation of the book. It is the number two bestseller on the German site of online bookseller Amazon. A film of her story is due for release in 2012.
"Enough time has passed. I want to finally be free of this weight on my shoulders," she told the audience of 800 mainly women and teenage girls to explain her reasons for publishing the book. As she read out passages from it, her voice was at times tremulous and at others confident.
"I did not produce this book to make money. I wanted to treat this story, to work on it, it is for people who want to read the real story from me," she said from behind a veil of dark blonde hair, occasionally giving a shy smile.
Dressed in a beige dress and black high heeled shoes, Kampusch said that the experience had taught her to be strong and empathize with others who suffer.
She described her first night locked underground alone and the gnawing hunger and misery when Priklopil left her without food for days and then eventually threw a bag of carrots into the cell.
"He told me I was better off with him and that my parents were not looking for me and did not miss me," she said, adding that sometimes she had believed him, "because no one came to free me." She was petrified that he would kill her.
Austria was shocked by 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.
Both Elisabeth and her father are also penning their life stories according to Austrian media reports.
Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton