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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 11:44 GMT
Kidnap girl grapples with freedom
Natascha Kampusch
Natascha Kampusch says her new-found freedom is hard
Austrian former kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch has said she is finding it hard to adjust to her new life.

In an interview with Austrian television, she said she could not yet face going out alone four months after escaping from her captor.

She also said she found being in large groups of people overwhelming.

She was forced to live in a cell beneath a house garage from 1998 until she escaped in August. Her captor killed himself hours after her escape.

"I can't go out in public alone. That would be too risky," she said.

Sometimes it is really obtrusive for me. I don't like loud voices
Natascha Kampusch

Asked if people recognised her in the street, she said: "Yes. Most of the time it is harmless. But now and then I get a brief fright if someone calls out 'hello', if me or the person I am with is recognised and it is a stranger."

She said she found situations involving large numbers of people difficult.

"Sometimes it is really obtrusive for me. I don't like loud voices," she said.

"People have different body odours, they smoke, they wear perfume, they wear flashy, disturbing clothes, they have unpleasant eating habits, they are rude, unfriendly, undisciplined and so on, but that doesn't matter at all.

"I was always a social person and from the outset [of life] had no problems with social contact," she added.

Family toll

She also said she suffered from claustrophobia.

Police photo showing stairs leading to dungeon

"The first weeks in this prison were incredibly hard, because I freaked out in this little chamber. It was terrible. But with time, I got used to it by imagining something wide and open.

"You just have to learn to adapt and make optimal use of this little room."

Of Wolfgang Priklopil, her abductor, she said he had no "empathy" for her: "I always told him he was incredibly ignorant because he ignored me."

Ms Kampusch, who is now 18, is living on her own in a rented apartment with access to counselling, Austrian media say.

The ordeal of her imprisonment and her subsequent freedom has taken its toll on her family, she said.

"Everyone believes that we [meaning her and her family] have to be super happy now, but really, it's taking a toll on the whole family. They don't have to worry about where I am anymore, but now there's new problems arising."

Bid for freedom

Ms Kampusch, who was 10 when she was abducted in March 1998, escaped when her captor was busy making a phone call on 23 August.

The communications technician had held Ms Kampusch in a small, windowless basement beneath his garage in the commuter town of Strasshof, 25km (15 miles) outside Vienna for eight and a half years.

He committed suicide by jumping under a train after Ms Kampusch escaped.

He was secretly buried at a cemetery south of Vienna on 8 September.

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