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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 August 2006, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Austria agonises over Natascha questions
By Kerry Skyring
Vienna

Four days after Natascha Kampusch ran from her underground prison, Austrians hunger for an answer to the question: "How could this happen here?"

Room where Natascha Kampusch was kept
Natascha's ordeal ended when she was finally able to flee

For some "here" is Strasshof, the village where she was held for eight years. For others it is Vienna, the supposedly safe city from whose streets she was snatched. And for others it is Austrian society - ordered, relatively safe and polite.

That one of this society's children could be so treated by one of its adult citizens has many turning to each other, and the media, for reassurance and answers.

On the streets of Vienna, in the socialist apartment blocks like the one in which Natascha spent her first eight years, in the coffee houses and wine taverns, Austrians are meeting each other and expressing their horror at what happened to Natascha.

"Oh my God!" said my neighbour on the stairs, and then: "Thank God she is alive."

Natascha's disappearance was a big enough story for most Vienna residents to remember her name eight years later.

And her name kept returning to the news over the years as private detectives and even politicians came up with theories, all of them now proven wrong, on what had happened to her.

But the story of her re-appearance is bigger by far than that of her disappearance.

Speculation

Denied any direct access to Natascha, and few words from her family, the media has had to rely on police, neighbours, hearsay and anyone who may have had some contact with Natascha or her story. The public has not been left wanting for speculation.

The popular Kurier newspaper goes furthest with its Saturday edition, speculating that Natascha was sexually abused by her abductor.

The paper also claims Natascha cried when she was told of the death of her abductor.

This, Kurier points out, fits with Stockholm Syndrome - a psychiatric condition in which hostages bond with their captors.

Vienna's psychiatrists have been busy explaining this and Kurier provides yet another interview on the topic.

Three young women, who last played with Natascha when she was 10 years old, are pictured and interviewed. They tell of their relief that "Natascha lives" and how they want to resume their friendship with her.

Computer images

Even Austria's most serious and conservative newspaper, Die Presse, devotes six pages to Natascha's story.

Police photo showing stairs leading to dungeon
Police found stairs leading to a dungeon in the house

Denied access to current photos (police are keeping her in a secret location) they print computer images of what she may look like today.

Die Presse snubs Vienna's psychologists for one from the FBI in the United States.

"Eight years? - we have nothing comparable in the United States," it quotes him as saying. This will not be reassuring to Austrians who tend to have a sense of superior security.

Another newspaper, the Salzburger Nachrichten, points out that Natascha spent 3,097 days in captivity. And then asks - how did she spend them?

So Austrians are not lacking speculation about the case of Natascha Kampusch. But their question "How could this happen here?" goes unanswered.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
An interview with the freed Austrian girl's mother





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