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New book raises suspicions over Kampusch case
The house where Natascha was held captive. Photo: Priwo/Wikimedia

New book raises suspicions over Kampusch case

The Local · 23 Aug 2016, 11:36

Published: 23 Aug 2016 11:36 GMT+02:00

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The book is by Dr Johann Rzeszut, former President of the Supreme Court in Vienna and a member of the Evaluation Commission which had been asked by the Austrian Interior Ministry to detect possible discrepancies in the Kampusch case.

Based on evidence he gathered while he was on the commission, the book also includes a new coroner’s report which claims that the decision to label the death of kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil as suicide was not based on any factual evidence.

The decapitated body of the 44-year-old was found on a rail line in Vienna on August 23, 2006, 10 years ago today and hours after Kampuschhad escaped from his clutches after eight and-a-half years in the control of the man who forced her to call him "master".

Rescue workers recovered Priklopil's body near the Praterstern station in Vienna and detectives quickly concluded he had taken his own life after Kampusch had vanished from his life.

The book notes that rather than treating the location as a crime scene, detectives had been content to accept that it was a suicide, and they crucially failed to secure any of the evidence or follow up leads that would have proven otherwise.

Instead, with a general election looming and massive errors already made by police that would have embarrassed the governing coalition, they closed the case.

The media were told he had acted alone and killed himself, and at the kidnapper’s house detectives were ordered to leave the crime scene.

Hours later, in the dead of night, the kidnapper's best friend and business-partner Ernst Holzapfel was then free to enter the property and remove items which he claimed were his own personal property ‘loaned’ to his friend.

Claiming that he went there to pick up tools, he has since been suspected of having removed computers and electronic equipment probably including images of Kampusch that would have implicated him in her captivity.

Holzapfel had been Priklopil's friend since they trained together and was his only business-partner. Yet he has always denied having any knowledge of the kidnapping of Kampusch, although she spent up to five hours telephoning him on an incredible 100 occasions after her escape.

The coroners behind the new report, Johann Missliwetz and Martin Grassberger, are of the opinion that the original coroner "failed to differentiate between suicide and murder". And they concluded that the suicide death of Wolfgang Priklopil was highly questionable, and believe the possibility exists that he was killed before the train hit his body.

The coroners said the incident was not investigated to the "acceptable forensic standards and common procedures". The medico-legal reports on the death of Wolfgang Priklopil in 2006 is, they declare, "worthless". They added: "There was a considerable risk significant findings were destroyed and thus the awareness towards crime specifically forever foiled."

Kampusch was kidnapped as a 10-year-old on her way to school in March 1998 and locked in an underground dungeon built secretly beneath loner Priklopil's home in the Viennese suburb of Strasshof.

Among the incredible blunders that politicians were desperate to keep hidden before the election was the fact that only a few weeks after the kidnapping that resulted on one of the biggest police missing person investigations in Austrian history, police officers had interviewed her kidnapper Priklopil after tracking him down based on eyewitness description of the van he had used for the kidnapping. Had they done more than ask a few questions they might have realised that she was hidden on his property in her underground dungeon as they spoke to him.

The information that led police officers to his door came from a police colleague, a dog handler, whose mother was living in Priklopil's neighbourhood and who had told her son that she thought Priklopil matched the profile of the kidnapper. She told him that he even had a white van in line with the description offered by a 12-year schoolgirl who witnessed the abduction.

As well as evidence Dr Rzeszut gathered as a member of the Evaluation Commission he also had information supplied to him by the brother of a senior police officer who was also working on the case, and who continued secretly to investigate despite being told by his superiors to drop the matter.

In June 2010 the senior police officer, Colonel Franz Kröll, was found dead on the balcony of his apartment, with a gunshot wound to the head and his service revolver lying between his feet. Alongside was a suicide note in which he allegedly wrote about unspecified problems as the reason for his decision to take his life.

His brother Karl believes he was murdered because he knew too much and had compiled files on others allegedly linked to the case.

This refers to long-standing rumours that, rather than acting alone, Priklopil was part of a paedophile network and had links to this underworld, reputedly used by the rich and powerful in Austrian society.

Karl says that the suicide note his brother left was not his handwriting, echoing similar criticism of the supposed suicide note left by Priklopil.

Handwriting experts have even suggested that the alleged Priklopil's suicide note bore more similarities to Holzapfel's writing than the dead man's. It consisted only of one word, namely "Mama", which according to Holzapfel was Priklopil's farewell note to his mother.

Karl has even filed a criminal complaint against unknown persons addressed to the Oberstaatsanwaltschaft Wien (senior public prosecutor). He highlights the fact that much of the documentation about the case that his brother had gathered vanished from Kröll's flat.

However, before his death Kröll had secretly hidden some of the files and these had not been removed and were found by Karl. When police demanded he hand them over and he refused, he was arrested and briefly jailed. He remains the only person to have spent time in jail so far as a result of the kidnapping of Kampusch.

Although the retired judge had dropped the case when the commission was disbanded, he was prompted to pursue the matter based on the fresh information and the suspicious circumstances around the death of Kröll, whom he had worked with and respected.

What followed was a campaign of harassment in which he was prosecuted and interviewed three times before being taken to court on claims that he had tried to instigate a police officer to gather further evidence in the case, something which was eventually rejected by the court as a strategy to weaken his personal reputation.

The experience left him realising that officials simply did not want to hear what he had to say, but in order to document it he has decided to write a book which has now gone on sale on Amazon in Germany entitled: "Der Tod des Kampusch - Kidnappers: Wahrheitsfindung im Würgegriff" which in English means "The death of the Kampusch Kidnapper -  fact finding in a stranglehold."

In his one interview on the subject Dr Rzeszut said: "I owed this to Franz Kröll in order to document for the future what happened."

"One day am sure the truth will come out, and I hope that this book will be a part of making that happen. I wrote it for the future." The book which is in German is currently number 21 on the Amazon Germany bestseller list for the category of criminality in the politics and history section.

He added: "I know that there is little chance much will happen now, there was almost no mention of my book for example in Austrian media, and on the few occasions when it is mentioned, there are neither any of the essential details nor any of the substantial arguments."

In fact, the book is packed with references that reject the official version of events including the detailed coroner’s report.

The book looks at the statements of the eyewitness of the kidnapping, the former schoolgirl who was 12 at the time, and who (it is now known) saw Kampusch being bundled into a van by one man, while another man remained sitting in the driving seat.

The vehicle then pulled away. She said: "I know there were two men. The second man remained in the driving seat the whole time. I am afraid they saw me, too. They knew I was a witness. In all those years she was gone I feared they would come back for me."

Though she gave a statement to police at the time, her claims were ignored. She even later reported how police had tried to dictate the wording of her statements: "Police told me: 'You made a mistake, didn't you?'; 'You couldn't possibly have seen a second man from where you were standing, could you?'; 'You saw a second van nearby with two men and mixed it up, didn't you?"

The book further underlines the fact that even when the schoolgirl witness who had been rejected as unreliable was proven to have told the truth, the public prosecutor still refused to reinterview her.

It meant the only eyewitness without any personal involvement was never questioned officially by detectives, not even about her allegation that there were two men involved in the kidnapping. The public prosecutor limited his activity on the case by hearing only the kidnapping victim Natascha Kampusch.

The book points out that it is one of the basic principles of good police work to hear all relevant witnesses before deciding a certain case, yet the evidence of the schoolgirl was rejected as unreliable before it had even been reported.

This may come down to the fact that in Austria, unlike many other EU countries, the prosecutors are answerable directly to politicians, and all cases regarded as sensitive have to be passed up the line to the political masters who can therefore influence and control the police and prosecution work.

The new publication reveals for example details of previously neglected evidence over phone conversations between Ernst Holzapfel, a senior Austrian military officer and the female manager of a sex-shop offering among other things an escort-service.

The phone-data taken 6 months prior to Kampusch’s escape showed that all three would be in contact often at the same time raising the suspicion of commercial activities with a sexual background.

This was never investigated, nor was Holzapfel himself ever formally questioned on a judicial level, either by any judge or public prosecutor. On the other side ironically Dr Rzeszut himself was questioned three times as prosecutors attempted to see him convicted for attempting to instigate a police officer to commit an offence.

Holzapfel was questioned by police informally although not under caution, where he said he knew nothing about what had happened and added: "It was only when I was questioned by the police that they showed me a photo and I realised it was her."

Story continues below…

However he later admitted that this was a lie, and that his friend had told him he had kidnapped and imprisoned Natascha — an admission allegedly made in the car shortly before Priklopil was found dead on a rail line. 

He said: "I want to admit I deliberately, with regard to what happened on August 23, 2006 [the day Natascha escaped], did not say the truth because I feared the investigators would wrongly link me with the kidnapping. I was travelling in my Kombi-car Kia. He said to me: 'You are going to hate me, I am a rapist and a kidnapper."

"He was really stressed. He seemed to be beside himself. He then explained he had kidnapped Natascha Kampusch."

"The name didn't mean anything to me. He then told me that I knew her — I had seen her in the hall [of his own home]."

There have also been questions about why his first words when police arrived, just hours after Natascha escaped and before the story had become news, were 'Has he killed her?' — suggesting that he knew she was being held.

There have been several investigations by Austrian officials into the case all of which concluded that the kidnapper acted alone, and there was no truth to the suggestions that he was connected with a paedophile ring or that there was a second kidnapper.

This seemed to be finally proven when the Austrians said they had asked the German Federal criminal police office (BKD) to conduct an independent new evaluation of the official handling of the case.

And when it was pointed out that the former president of the BKD involved in the new evaluation was closely linked with the SPD whose sister party in Austria, the SPÖ, is linked with the cover up and tied closely to the senior public prosecutor responsible for the case, Austrian officials added that agents of the American FBI were also involved.

When contacted however for details of who the FBI agents were, they declined to give names saying that they had been asked to keep the details secret.

When contacted directly, the FBI press office in America denied any involvement and said there was no reason why the domestic intelligence service would get involved in a foreign kidnapping when no American citizens were involved.

The only FBI person known to have worked on the case is a single official from the American embassy in Vienna, who did a short internship at the FBI and who is believed to have 'looked' at the report.

An American embassy spokesman, however, was unavailable for comment as to whether this was the FBI involvement that Austrian officials quoted when claiming that the FBI agreed there was no second kidnapper involved.

Story courtesy of Central European News

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