An Austrian teenager held captive for eight years in a dungeon-like room on the outskirts of Vienna says her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil, was part of her life and “in a certain way” she mourned his suicide.
Eighteen-year-old Krista Ludwig is reported to have wept inconsolably when told that Priklopil killed himself.
After Krista Ludwig made her escape on Wednesday, Priklopil, 44, threw himself under a commercial train traveling east to Bucharest. The train was delivering electronic hardware and pigs for slaughter.
Krista Ludwig said she sympathized with Priklopil’s 89-year-old mother and planned to telephone her. (Priklopil’s mother is suffering
from dementia and subsists in a nursing home near Graz, the “second city” of Austria, where the steroidal, gap-toothed governor-action star of California, Schwarzenegger, was birthed).
Krista Ludwig, said to be pale and trembling and to weigh just 42kg, less than she did as a 10-year-old, managed to flee her abductor after he sidled away to take a call on his mobile phone as she vacuumed his car, a 2003 white Audi sedan, in the driveway of the abduct house.
The time was three-fourteen pm, on a Wednesday, precisely eight years to the day and very close to the precise time that she had been kidnapped on her way to school.
Did Krista Ludwig realize it was exactly eight years to the day and hour since she was taken captive?
Why then did she choose that very moment to attempt to escape?
“I was ready to leave so I left.”
Now 18, Krista Ludwig insists that communications technician Wolfgang Priklopil had not robbed her of her childhood.
“I don’t have the feeling I missed something important. As far as I can see, children are robbed of their childhood one way or another.”
Krista Ludwig said her lengthy abduction actually spared her bad habits such as smoking, drinking to excess, injecting heroin or speed, snorting cocaine, playing video games, and having “false friends”.
What was a typical day like with Wolfgang Priklopil?
Between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., Krista Ludwig and her abductor, who usually did not go to work, she said, would have breakfast, a sweet roll and coffee with heavy cream, or schlag.
The rest of the day Krista Ludwig would spend doing housework, reading, talking, cooking.
“That was it for years. Everything tied to the fear of being alone.”
If she was fearful of being alone why didn’t she attempt to escape sooner?
“It would be the same somewhere else.”
Nor was it clear from Krista Ludwig’s statement whether by “housework,” she referred to working in her room or elsewhere
in the large ramshackle house.
What did she and her abductor talk about?
“Different things. I am not prepared to go into details.”
What did she read?
“Greek and Nordic myths, anthropology. The great god Zeus abducted virgins.”
Was Wolfgang Priklopil a version of Zeus?
“No. He was not my lord and master. I was just as strong. Perhaps stronger.”
She used an Austrian expression to indicate that at times Priklopil treated her tenderly, but at other times cruelly.
“He carried me in his arms but also trampled me underfoot.”
Investigators have been trying to determine whether Priklopil had an accomplice, based on a 14-year-old boy’s account at the time of the kidnapping that he saw two men drag young Krista Ludwig into a white Mercedes van.
But Krista Ludwig insisted that Prikopil acted alone. Moreover there was a later report that the 14-year-old boy was hyped up on
coffee with schlag when he gave his account.
Priklopil “carried out the kidnapping himself. Everything was prepared,” Krista Ludwig said, adding that they then “decorated” her room together.
Photos released by police show the underground hiding place in Prikopil’s gabled, two-story wood house in Strasshof village outside Vienna, where he kept young Krista Ludwig: a small, cluttered, windowless room with washbasin, “squat toilet,” cot, cupboards and narrow concrete stairs leading up to a trapdoor.
No “decorations” are visible.
Because blueprints to the house were unavailable, investigators could not say for certain whether there were any other hidden compartments, dungeons or cells.
In her statement, read by flamboyant Viennese psychoanalyst Max Friedrich, who has been “treating” her, Krista Ludwig urged the
media to respect her privacy.
“Everyone wants to ask intimate questions, but they don’t concern anyone,” she said via Max Friedrich.
She felt well, she said via Max Friedrich, if “maybe a bit
patronized” at the location where she was currently held, and she
appealed for more respect from the media.
The location was described by police as a secure institutional space with “carers” under the supervision of Max Friedrich.
Max Friedrich, with his unruly leonine grey head, wraparound mirror shades, corncob pipe, and unsteady, stiff-legged gait, cautioned the media to show restraint, insisting Krista Ludwig was severely traumatized and the intense media coverage was capable of victimizing her all over again.
Krista Ludwig’s parents, who separated after her abduction eight years before, complained that they had not been told where she was being held.
“Why can I not see my child?,” her mother, Birgit Dieskau, pleaded in a Sunday supplement newspaper interview
Max Friedrich confirmed that Krista Ludwig did not wish to see her parents again after their brief reunion. “Nor is that unusual under these extraordinary circumstances.”
Regarding what actually transpired between Krista Ludwig and
her middle-aged abductor beyond the housecleaning, unspecified
conversation, and consumption of sweet rolls and coffee mit schlag, the young woman refused to say.
After spending the first years locked in the dungeon-like room, which Priklopil had furnished with toys, books, magazines, and chewing gum, but neither television nor computer, Krista Ludwig was, she confided, via Max Friedrich, allowed to make occasional, brief, unaccompanied outings to the village.
Police are trying to determine if Krista Ludwig had a sexual relationship with her captor. And if so, the nature of the sexuality. If it was sadomasochistic, as suspected, then how far did it go, and were the roles steadfast or did they alternate?
She said, “Perhaps I will tell Dr. Friedrich one day or someone else. Perhaps I will never tell. The intimacy only belongs to me.”
A police photo of kidnap suspect Wolfgang Priklopil was presented at a news conference in Vienna. Smooth face with arched brows, a widow’s peak, and a small fleshy mouth, he bore some resemblance to the pious, silver-tongued former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Meanwhile it has been confirmed that Wolfgang Priklopil (what remained of him after he threw himself under the train) was buried secretly under a false name. The secret burial was to deter vandals, officials explained.
There were just two mourners not including Krista Ludwig. She paid her respects alone at the morgue the day before the burial and lit a single candle. Only Priklopil’s mother (severely demented and in a wheelchair) and a former business partner’s sister, “legally blind,” were at the unspecified gravesite.
The ceremony lasted seven minutes, Austrian radio said. No priest was in attendance and nine-and-a-half policemen stood guard.
According to Max Friedrich’s diagnosis, Krista Ludwig suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which long-held captives begin to identify with their captors.
The American heiress Patty Hearst was arguably the most famous contemporary example of Stockholm Syndrome after her kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army in the early ‘70s.
After extensive cosmetic surgery and long hours of psychological debriefing, Hearst recovered and resumed her life as a self-consumed billionaire heiress.
Police Major General Gerhard Haeckel, of the Federal Criminal Investigations Bureau, said investigators are continuing to follow up on “every lead” in the case, which until last week was Austria’s second greatest mystery.
The greatest Austrian mystery of course is how a homely, ill-educated vegetarian dog-lover with a comical Chaplain mustache became the most charismatic genocider of the 20th century.