FBI to help Austria look again at Kampusch case

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2012 6:35 AM
FBI to help Austria look again at Kampusch case

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria is enlisting the help of the FBI and Germany's BKA Federal Crime Office to see whether mistakes were made in the investigation of one of its most notorious cases - the kidnapping of schoolgirl Natascha Kampusch.

Snatched on her way to school when she was 10 years old by Wolfgang Priklopil, Kampusch was held for eight years in a windowless cell under his house outside Vienna before escaping in August 2006. He killed himself hours later.

While it is the most thoroughly evaluated case ever in Austria, a parliamentary panel recommended the investigation be looked at again with the help of foreign experts, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Mlcoch said.

"If they find out that there really have been some mistakes then we can learn for the future," she said.

Drawing parallels with the September 11 attacks on the United States or the 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Mlcoch said: "There will always be some theories of what could have happened. There are always some critics who say you could have done this, and this, and this."

She said the case was not being re-opened but the committee, set up on Friday and due to complete its work by the end of the year, would look at how the investigation was conducted.

The government had agreed to the parliamentary panel's recommendation for the sake of transparency. "We want to show that we have a clear conscience, we know that we've done everything possible," Mlcoch said.

A team working with the committee, which groups Justice and Interior Ministry officials and others, will include a cold case expert from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In her memoirs "3,096 Days" Kampusch recounted how her captor starved her, beat her, sexually abused her and forced her to clean his house half naked, calling her his "slave".

Austria was shocked by an abuse scandal again in 2008 when it emerged that Josef Fritzl had held his daughter Elisabeth in a cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, one of which he murdered through neglect. He is in jail for life.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Janet Lawrence)