The father of girl in the cellar Natascha Kampusch – locked in an underground dungeon and raped for for eight-and-a-half years – has written a book accusing her kidnapper’s best friend of being his accomplice.
Natascha Kampusch was 10 years old when she was snatched off the streets of Vienna and bundled into a van by pervert Wolfgang Priklopil. His quest was for her to grow to love him.
In his book ‘Missing‘ – out this week in English from Medusa Publishing – Natascha’s father Ludwig Koch claims a catalogue of errors by Austrian police meant that obvious clues that would have seen his daughter released within weeks of her kidnapping were overlooked, leaving her at the mercy of her tormentor for 3096 days.
The book is not being sold in Austria for legal reasons.
When she finally escaped in August 2006 – a fortnight before Austria’s general election – civil servants moved to cover up the errors to “avoid a police scandal” – a strategy that Natascha’s father says allowed the kidnapper’s alleged accomplice Ernst Holzapfel to escape.
He said: “It may sound unbelievable but everything in my book is taken directly from the more than 57,000 police files that were leaked to my legal team. Its not my words. It is facts and evidence from those files.”
He has won the backing of senior Austrian officials including Herwig Haidinger, 59, who was the head of the Austrian equivalent of the CIA at the time of the kidnapping investigation.
Also backing him are Ludwig Adamovich, the former head of the country’s constitutional court and Johann Rzeszut, the former president of the Austrian High Court. Rzeszut said: “In 43 years in the legal business I have never seen a scandal like this one.”
Ludwig added: “People might call me a crank but with people on my team like these it must show there is truth in what I claim.”
Top Austrian lawyer Dietmar Heck from the Austrian law firm Boran, Venturini and Heck in Vienna said: “The contents of the police files are explosive and prove clearly that Wolfgang Priklopil the kidnapper was not alone – and that there was a second man.”
The legal team spent weeks examining the data and have now launched an OJ-Simpson style civil case demanding damages from the alleged accomplice who tried to claim he was “only a business associate of Mr Priklopil, and had little to do with him privately”.
But Koch has discovered that the pair had nicknames for each other – Woody for Holzapfel and Wolfi for Priklopil – they frequently went on skiing holidays together, spent every New Year’s Eve together, met regularly in the evenings to go to bars and play billiards.
And ‘Woody’s’ sister Margit Wendelberger even had a relationship with the kidnapper, at least according to police files. They show that in an interview with Natascha she told detectives Priklopil and Margit had been in an affair.
She denies it – but she is unable to explain why she had arranged his funeral and comforted the kidnapper’s mother after his death, why her daughter has inherited one of the flats of Priklopil, and even though she had only met him once – and had never met the mother – why it was that she that dealt with all the legal affairs of the kidnapper.
Priklopil was found decapitated beneath the wheels of a suburban train in the hours after Natascha’s escape. His body was never properly autopsied and was cremated within hours – on Margit’s instructions – to be buried in the Holzapfel family plot.
Wendelberger acted to transfer all of the kidnapper’s three properties, his car collection and his share portfolio as well as the contents of his bank account over to her brother.
The film version of Natascha’s ordeal – 3096 Days – ordeal is due out in England soon. It is already on show in Germany.
Koch’s book quotes from confidential police files which are now part of the upcoming civil legal case and show that there was a deliberate attempt to speedily close the original investigation, and that all of the evidence leading to Holzapfel after Natasha’s escape in 2006 – along with evidence that would have led to the kidnapper being identified days after the 1998 abduction – was ignored.
This included a record of telephone calls the pair had made that police didn’t even bother to check and Holzapfel’s role in helping Priklopil escape police shortly before his alleged suicide. The pair met in Priklopil’s car at a shopping centre in Vienna as thousands of police officers combed the streets looking for him.
Holzapfel was the last person to see him alive. The book also reveals that Holzapfel went into the kidnapper’s house the same day that Natasha had fled and removed items said to include computer and storage disks while police officers stood around outside.
Priklopil also took items from his safe that had vanished by the time he had completed his meeting with Holzapfel. There was also DNA evidence that showed a third person was in Holzapfel’s car in the two hours afterwards before it was seized by police.
Holzapfel claims what Koch says is all a conspiracy theory, and produced a suicide note from his pal to prove it. A police expert however said the suicide note could not have been written by Priklopil – and more – that it had actually been written by Holzapfel.
When police finally tracked Holzapfel down on the day of Natascha’s escape, they said he had started sweating and had been nervous even before they told him why they were there – and he then asked: “Has he killer her?”
As police had not told him what it was they wanted, it was clear he knew more than he had admitted.
And Koch says – crucially – Holzapfel claims he did not know Kampusch other than once seeing her when his friend came to borrow a trailer, yet they spoke 100 times on the phone after her escape and his wife made her a pink 18th birthday cake while she was in captivity.
Natascha told her sisters he had even given her a birthday present – a bottle of Baileys for her 18th birthday. Holzapfel’s neighbour gave a statement to say he had seen Natascha at his house.
Ludwig’s lawyer Dietmar Heck said: “We aim to prove he was involved, and even if the court don’t accept that then we believe they have to accept that he must have known she was a victim of Priklopil.”
He said the files in the case show that Holzapfel knew his friend had child porn, knew that he had a tendency to be cruel and was a racist who admired Hitler, that he hated foreigners because of his own Mediterranean looks that made it difficult for him to get a girlfriend, the same Mediterranean looks that were described by the witness to the kidnapping, he knew that the kidnap van matched exactly the one that his friend owned, knew that he had no alibi on the day of the kidnapping, and had even asked him what he was going to say to the police when they turned up to quiz him.
While the interior ministry tried to sweep it all under the carpet, a media frenzy around Natascha led to clashes between her medical team that wanted to keep their high profile patient and her lawyers that tried to get her out to honour contracts with the media. At one point there was almost a fight between lawyers and doctors according to the police files as one side tried to drag her away and the other tried to get her back into the hospital.
With the two high profile sides battling it out for the fame and multi million pound TV and film right deals, her family were banned from seeing her. Only her lawyers, her doctors – and Holzapfel – were allowed to visit her in hospital.
When Natasha vanished it was Ludwig Koch that demanded the investigation not be closed and who constantly came up with new leads and was frequently in the media appealing for more help from the public. Once she was freed and he was given the evidence of the role of the second man of which the above is only a tiny percentage he has been fighting since then for the full story.
And though it pains him, the police files also show that Natascha still ultimately the child victim of a brutal crime who was indoctrinated for eight-and-a-half years by her kidnapper seems unable to fill in the holes. Natasha case Detective Max Edelbacher said it almost seemed as if she had been primed about what to say not just to the media but to police as well.
She asked an officer if she could see a Euro coin as they were only introduced after she was imprisoned in the cellar – yet it later emerged she had been shopping in supermarkets and DIY stores and had Euro coins at home. It was said she was never given sweets inside and had asked for a chocolate on being released – later it was discovered she got sweets at Easter and Christmas and in between as well.
She had not been allowed to watch films or read books – but videos and books were found at the house and in the cellar. And she and Priklopil went on cycle rides around the town, walks in the woods, even visited a romantic fish restaurant on the banks of the River Danube after the recommendation of a neighbour that it was a good place to go to.
He believes the indoctrination of “your family doesn’t love you, you are nothing without me, they sold you to me, you would have nowhere to go without me” has left a legacy that has made his daughter a prisoner again. He said every time he meets her now he senses that there is something between them and believes that something is the truth as depicted in the thousands of police files he has now read.
In the end a cross party Parliamentary committee has been forced to admit the truth is never likely to come out if left with local police and prosecutors, and they have called in an independent team from the FBI.
When that report is finished Ludwig’s case will go ahead. He said: “I can’t do more than I have. But win or lose, I will have made sure that the information I have has been recorded for the history books – where the ultimate judgement will take place.”
His book is available to buy by clicking here: