Case evokes memories of two similar kidnappings in Austria

VIENNA • The case of an Austrian suspected of holding a Dutch family captive for nearly a decade has sparked memories of two other high-profile kidnappings in the small Alpine country.

Following the detention earlier this week of Josef B. in a rural community in the Netherlands where he is being investigated for holding a family in a secret room in a farmhouse, Austrian media has evoked two other past cases - those of Ms Elisabeth Fritzl and Ms Natascha Kampusch.

Ms Fritzl was imprisoned and raped for more than 24 years by her father, while Ms Kampusch was held for eight years by an unemployed telecoms engineer.

"Bad memories of the Josef Fritzl case" and "Crimes that shock" were among the headlines since Wednesday pointing out similarities in the three cases.

Ms Kampusch told a talk show by the tabloid Krone's TV channel that the Netherlands case opened old wounds, saying: "It's terrible. I'm not surprised because there are many cases which we don't know about, also on other continents, where this is common too."

She was kidnapped in 1998 at age 10 by Wolfgang Priklopil on the way to school in Vienna and held in an underground room measuring less than 6 sq m.

She recounts being starved, beaten and sexually abused until her escape in 2006. Priklopil committed suicide the day she escaped.

Ms Fritzl was 18 when her father Josef locked her in his purpose-built cellar in 1984. He claimed she had run away from home, and kept her in the cellar of the family home west of Vienna until 2008, raping her repeatedly, resulting in the birth of seven children, one of whom died just a few days old.

The case came to light when one of the surviving children became ill and had to be hospitalised.

Josef Fritzl was jailed for life in 2009, after being found guilty of murder for the baby's death as well as incest, sequestration, grievous assault and 3,000 instances of rape.

Ms Fritzl and her surviving children took on new identities and moved to an undisclosed location where they have lived quietly, with no details seeping out even in the Austrian tabloids.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Case evokes memories of two similar kidnappings in Austria'. Print Edition | Subscribe