Natasha Kampusch kidnap case re-opened after claim police chief murdered
AUSTRIA is poised to re-open the case of Natascha Kampusch, the kidnapped schoolgirl who escaped from eight years' imprisonment in a cellar in 2006, following the release of new evidence which suggests the "suicide" of the police chief who led the investigation into her abduction, may in fact have been murder.
Ms Kampusch was just 10 when she was abducted. In March 1998 her kidnapper grabbed her from behind as she was walking to school in Vienna and bundled her into a van. In August 2006 she escaped. Neighbours discovered the then 18-year-old girl looking pale, emaciated and terrified as she hid in a next door garden. At first they did not believe her story. But later the same day the headless corpse of Wolfgang Priklopil, her 44-year-old kidnapper, was found on a railway line just outside the Austrian capital.
Yet seven years on, new evidence has emerged which implies that Priklopil may have had an accomplice and that police and justice authorities could have been involved in an attempt to cover up his existence.
Suspicions have been raised by the results of new tests carried out by the Austrian forensic expert Professor Peter Leinzinger. They conclude that Franz Kroll, the police colonel who led the Kampusch investigation until his alleged "suicide" in 2010, may have been murdered.
Mr Kroll is said to have come under intense pressure to present a "doctored version" of the Kampusch kidnapping to prosecutors. He is reported to have told colleagues in January 2010: "I am not going to go in there and lie to everyone's face."
But on 8 January 2010, the Vienna state prosecutor held a press conference at which he declared the Kampusch case had been solved and that Priklopil was the only perpetrator. Mr Kroll was absent. Six months later the policeman's dead body was found outside his flat in Graz. A judicial inquiry concluded he had shot himself in the head holding his police-issue pistol in his left hand.
However Prof Leinzinger concludes: "Contrary to the findings of the investigating officers, the shot was fired from right to left."
His brother Karl says there are "huge inconsistencies" in the handwriting used in the note his brother allegedly left behind. And the contents of an A4 file on the Kampusch case was also missing. (© Independent News Service)