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Austrian kidnap victim dreamt of freedom

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Austrian teenager Natascha Kampusch, showing both fragility and strength in her first interviews since fleeing captivity last month, said she never abandoned dreams of freedom during the eight years she was held in a dank, basement cell.

"I only thought about fleeing," the 18-year-old said in an interview with the weekly News magazine, published Wednesday.

Kampusch, who was snatched off a Vienna street in 1998 when she was 10, appeared as a poised, attractive young woman, in photographs and in her first television interview shown on Austrian broadcaster ORF Wednesday evening.

She told News she had thought at times about decapitating her kidnapper, 44-year-old telecommunications technician Wolfgang Priklopil, who committed suicide once she escaped on August 23.

"Sometimes I dreamt of chopping his head off, if I had an axe," she said, adding, "you see how the brain works when it's looking for a solution."

"I kept thinking, I surely was not born to let myself be locked up and have my life ruined," she said.

Kampusch made clear that her extraordinary story, which has brought 50 foreign television crews to Vienna, was about freedom.

"I am a great lover of freedom. I am thoroughly drunk with the thought of freedom," Kampusch told her interviewer.

"I always sought the moment when the time would be right. But I could not risk anything," the young woman said about her escape, adding that "a failed attempt could have meant I would never come out of the dungeon."

Kampusch fled when Priklopil, who occasionally let her out of her claustrophobic cell to accompany him and work on his house, got distracted by a telephone call while she was vacuuming his car.

She said her escape was "completely spontaneous" and that she just "ran when I saw him on the telephone."

"I ran panicked into the gardens (of nearby houses) and talked to people. They had no mobile phone and simply moved on shrugging their shoulders, so I simply jumped over fences into several gardens," Kampusch said.

"Then I saw an open window where somebody was working in their kitchen. I talked to the woman and told her to call the police."

On television, Kampusch, wearing jeans and a purple shirt with a long pink and purple scarf tied around her head, appeared relaxed and often smiling, even joking at times with the interviewer.

Suffering from a cold however, she spoke with a hoarse voice and often closed her eyes against the light as she told ORF of her attempts to attract attention when she was out with her kidnapper.

"I tried to give many people a sign... I tried to smile like I did on the photos (of her that were broadcast after she disappeared) so people could remember my picture," Kampusch said.

She said Priklopil threatened to harm anybody who tried to help her and so she never cried for help.

Kampusch said Priklopil was a paranoid and distrustful person, who would even check the newspaper after she had read it.

"He always scanned through the pages to see if I had not written something, that was his paranoia. He always controlled and checked everything, to see if I hadn't written messages," she said.

Kampusch said she celebrated her birthdays, Easter and Christmas with her kidnapper and that he gave her presents on those occasions.

"He obviously thought that he should at least give me some sort of compensation," she said, adding: "I think he had a very bad conscience, but he tried very hard to suppress it."

Kampusch had said in advance of the interviews that she would not answer questions about her personal life, including speculation that she had intimate relations with Priklopil.

She also told News she did not want to talk too much about Priklopil, "because he is not here anymore to defend himself. I find that to blast a dead person is not very nice, especially because of his mother."

Kampusch said she was planning two projects, one in Mexico to help women who have been taken from their workplace, tortured and raped, and another in Africa.

"I want to help people starving in Africa because I know from my own experience what it is like to be hungry," she said She added that she wanted to help people who had suffered what she had suffered.



AFP 062213 GMT 09 06

COPYRIGHT 2006 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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