Thursday, August 24, 2006


Kidnapped girl held eight years in garage

A young woman has told police she escaped a kidnapper after being held for eight years in a sealed garage, apparently resolving a missing child case that shook Austria.
Police said relatives identified her as Natascha Kampusch, who vanished in 1998 aged 10 while walking to school.
Her suspected kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, a communications technician, died after throwing himself in front of a Vienna commuter train when a manhunt for him was under way, police said.
The head of the Federal Crime Office, Herwig Haidinger, said the woman was undergoing DNA tests to confirm her identity but that investigators were almost certain she was Ms Kampusch. Her passport was found in the cellar and she bore an identifying scar.
She met her mother yesterday for the first time since 1998.
Her father, Ludwig Koch, who split from her mother before the kidnapping, said he was overcome after being told his daughter had been found.
"I can't believe that after eight desperate years my daughter is finally coming home. If it is true it will be the greatest thing that could possibly be."
The family has asked the media to show patience as they get to know each other again.
A police spokesman, Armin Halm, said: "Her health is OK and mentally she also appears to be OK, at least in the eyes of a layman. She was not bedraggled."
There were no indications the woman had been sexually abused, investigators said.
She escaped on Wednesday afternoon after living under a garage next to the suspected kidnapper's house in Strasshof, a hamlet 25 kilometres outside Vienna, police said.
Her captor had equipped a six-square-metre cell with running water, a toilet, washing facilities, bed, books, radio and occasionally television, police said. The room was found tidy.
She showed up in a garden near the house and identified herself to a neighbour, Reuters reported. Locals said they saw a car speeding away after the woman approached residents. Police found Priklopil's red sports car in a Vienna parking lot and the key in his pocket after the suicide.
He had loosened his security measures recently, police said, allowing her occasional outings in the village with him. "He was not as cautious as he was in the beginning," said the chief investigator, Nikolaus Koch.
An investigator, Erich Zwettler, who was asked why the woman had not fled during her outings, said she seemed to have had Stockholm syndrome, a psychological condition in which long-held captives begin to identify with their captors.
The Austrian news agency APA quoted police as saying: "She is white-pale, looking as if she had been out of the light of day for a long time, but she articulated well and could read and write."
Ms Kampusch's disappearance caused an uproar because it occurred when Europe was unnerved by a notorious case of child abduction and murder in Belgium. A nationwide search, including dragging of riverbeds. found no trace of her.

Teen shot in head when looking for ghosts

WORTHINGTON, Ohio - A teenager out looking for ghosts with friends was shot in the head and critically wounded near a house considered spooky by local teens, police said.
A man who lives in the house, Allen S. Davis, 40, was charged in the shooting and told reporters from jail that he was trying to drive off trespassers and didn't intend to hurt the teen girls, whom he called juvenile delinquents.
He said he fired his rifle out his bedroom window Tuesday night after hearing voices outside the home, which is across the street from a cemetery and blocked from view by overgrown trees and shrubbery.
"I didn't know what their weaponry was, what their intentions were," he said. "In a situation like that, you assume the worst-case scenario if you're going to protect your family from a possible home invasion and murder."
The 17-year-old girl, Rachel Barezinsky, and two of her friends got out of their car parked near the home about 10 p.m. and took a few steps on the property, police Lt. Doug Francis said. They jumped back in when a girl in the car sounded the horn, and they heard what they thought were firecrackers as they drove away.
The girls - all seniors at Thomas Worthington High School in suburban Columbus - drove around the block, and Barezinsky was struck while sitting in the car as they passed the house again and heard a second round of what turned out to be gunshots, Francis said.
Davis, a self-employed nonfiction writer, said he had prepared the rifle after numerous previous instances of trespassing but he didn't know until Wednesday that teens considered his house haunted. Police should charge the teens with trespassing, he said.
"It's really something how homeowners defend themselves and the way the laws are written, we're the ones brought up on charges while the perpetrators get little or nothing."
Francis said police do not intend to pursue criminal charges against the girls at this point.
As the girls' car drove away from the house, the driver noticed she had blood on her arm and passengers in the back seat also discovered blood, police said. They saw Barezinsky had collapsed in the front passenger's seat and drove until they could flag down two police officers. The other girls were not injured.
Some classmates at the high school, which has about 1,700 students, were planning a vigil Wednesday night at the football stadium.

Principal Rich Littell said he had talked to Barezinsky, a well-known cheerleader, at a freshman welcome dance on Monday night.
"It just kills you. She's a great kid, very, very athletic. She was looking forward to ... the tumbling she was going to do at the football game," he said.
Davis, who was charged with five counts of felonious assault, told officers he had been annoyed by trespassers and that he was aiming for the car's tires from his first-floor bedroom, police said.
"He admitted to never calling the police, but it just had been occurring and he got frustrated and he was upset saying someone trespassed on his property and he was protecting his property," Francis said.
Barezinsky, who also was struck in the shoulder, was taken to Ohio State University Medical Center in critical condition, police said. The hospital would not provide an update on her condition Wednesday.
Francis said Davis' home had a reputation at the high school for being haunted by ghosts and witches, and students have been daring each other to knock on the door or go in the yard.
"Something we learned is that high school kids have been going into cemeteries and looking for ghosts," he said.
Zoning officers have visited the home where Davis lives with his 64-year-old mother because of complaints that the property has not been kept up, police said.
Betty Davis, 69, who lives around the corner, said Allen Davis was quiet and kept to himself. She said she's not related to him.
Her children played with Davis when they were young, she said. She was surprised he owned a gun.
"I guess last night was the last straw," she said. "I think it blew everybody's mind it would come to this."

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