Last Night’s TV – Natascha: The Girl In The Cellar

by Lynn Connolly

I’m sure we all remember the horrible case of Natascha Kampusch, the little girl who was kidnapped at the age of 10 and subsequently held hostage for over eight years.

In fact, until Josef Fritzl and his horrific story came to light, Natascha’s case was The Red Hot Story of the moment, but as ever, it was – arguably – superseded by one that captured the world’s sense of morbid curiosity even more.

And if I’m honest, it was that sense of morbid curiosity that drove me to watch this documentary last night. I suspect it’s because we so rarely ever hear of anyone coming back when they’ve been gone so long. It’s almost miraculous; like a reincarnation.

Natascha’s story is one that is desperately sad and, though the phrase is perhaps devalued due to overuse, it was a living nightmare. And by all accounts, her time since she escaped from the house in which she was being held has been tortuous too.

She’s been vilified by many for all sorts of things, such as her apparent passivity and not trying to escape at every opportunity. It’s even been suggested that she was “willing” and enjoyed her time with Priklopil.

She’s likewise been the subject of a hate campaign for telling her story and making money from it, but why shouldn’t she? If any good can come from this tale of horror, it’s that she perhaps won’t have to want for material things at least.

And considering what she went through in those long years of captivity, and what she’s been subjected to since, I was in awe of her composure. One of the things that struck me most about her was her incredible inner strength and her understanding about what drove her kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil – who Natascha referred to only as “the criminal” – to act as he did.

For a girl who hadn’t had any education since she was ten years old, her innate intelligence shone through as she recounted what happened to her and also analysed Priklopil’s actions. Natascha had, however, had access to books at various times during her imprisonment, and had effectively taught herself via her reading.

She told her dreadful story with a clinical detachment yet at the same time, though it was clearly a tale she’d told so many times, much of it was probably by rote, one couldn’t help but picture her as the little girl she was, terrified and alone; isolated and brutalised in a stranger’s cellar.

Natascha didn’t discuss details of any sexual abuse – if any occurred – but she did place much emphasis on the psychological torment that Priklopil put her through. And again, one got a sense that even as a child, she understood what motivated Priklopil. And there was little sign of any anger on her part, which is in itself, remarkable.

We heard alongside Natascha’s story her mother’s, and again, one can only imagine the horror of those long years for her. She too spoke eloquently and only once or twice lost her composure and succumbed to tears. Brigitta told also how a private detective got it into his head that she, along with a businessman, had murdered Natascha.

Those segments were notably very much like the accusations that were, and still are, thrown at Kate and Gerry McCann too.

We also heard and saw about the police investigation into Natascha’s disappearance and how Priklopil had actually been on their radar since very early on into the investigation. In fact, police officers had visited Priklopil and may have been just feet from Natascha, but there was nothing to suggest that Priklopil was in fact the monster we now know him to be.

The end of the film dealt of course with her escape and Priklopil’s suicide, as well as the immediate aftermath of the end of her captivity and the inevitable, and very much unwanted, media attention…

“What the media did to me after I was released was also a form of abuse, and they should be punished too” Natascha said quietly and again, with a remarkable lack of rancour.

I hope now that she’s told her own story in her own words, she can find some peace of mind and peace to live her life.

If you missed this fascinating film, you can catch it here, on Demand Five.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.