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Neighbors say they saw captive girl alone outside
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

VIENNA, Austria -- An Austrian girl held in an underground cell for more than eight years took car trips with her captor and was seen alone in his garden, a neighbor said Tuesday, adding fresh details to an increasingly complex portrait of her captivity.

Josef Jantschek told state broadcaster ORF that he saw Natascha Kampusch riding in the front seat of Wolfgang Priklopil's car and walking around his garden alone several times over the past few months.

Other residents of Priklopil's hometown of Strasshof, a tidy suburb just northeast of Vienna, have said they saw Kampusch outdoors at various times, investigators have told reporters. And at least one other resident told an Austrian newspaper that she had seen Kampusch in Priklopil's car.

The details have given nuance to the widespread initial impression that Kampusch spent virtually every second of her captivity in a windowless secret cell in Priklopil's garage.

That Kampusch may have had more freedom than previously thought suggests Priklopil's control over the girl may have been so deep that she didn't take advantage of possible opportunities to escape, according to some experts.

Federal investigators said they planned to resume questioning the young woman about her ordeal today, and police made a floor-to-floor search of the house where the girl -- now 18 -- was held to make sure it contains no other secret rooms or victims.

Priklopil, 44, killed himself hours after his prisoner's escape a week ago, throwing himself under a train.

Jantschek told ORF he thought it odd that Kampusch always entered the house through the garage, where police now say hidden stairs led to the cell she called home until her bolt to freedom Aug. 23.

The victim was 10 when she was taken while walking to school on March 2, 1998.

"She looked friendly, but pale," Jantschek said. When he asked Priklopil whether Kampusch was a new girlfriend, he said he was told she was a housekeeper from the former Yugoslavia.


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