First book on Austrian kidnap woman hits shelves

By Karin Strohecker, Mike Collett-White

LONDON / VIENNA - A British publisher has ignored the wishes of Austrian former kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch and released the first account of her harrowing ordeal living as a captive for eight years in a windowless cell.

Hodder & Stoughton's Girl in the Cellar: The Natascha Kampusch Story written by two journalists went on sale in London bookstores on Thursday, despite Kampusch saying she did not want anyone to publish an unauthorised book about her.

She has argued she was the only person who should tell the story, and has threatened to sue anyone who printed untruths about her that infringed her "personality rights".

Aware of the controversy surrounding the publication, Hodder & Stoughton issued a brief statement to accompany the release of the 260-page book.

"Hodder & Stoughton publishers have taken steps to ensure that the book 'Girl in the Cellar' complies with appropriate legal requirements," it said. "They do not intend to market the book in Europe outside the UK."

Publishing house Pendo, active in German-speaking countries, held talks to sell the book in its territories, but legal concerns and questions over how well the book might sell scuppered the deal.

"No matter how well it is done it never has the same potential (as if the story was told by Kampusch herself)," said Claus-Martin Carlsberg, a consultant speaking on behalf of Pendo. "We deemed it not worth the risk."

Natasha Fairweather, agent responsible for rights to publish the book, did not return messages left at her London office.

The Girl in the Cellar, written by Allan Hall and Michael Leidig, profiles Kampusch, the man who held her captive, reconstructs the March 1998 abduction and seeks to imagine what the ordeal was like for a girl aged 10 at the time.

Her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil, committed suicide hours after her dramatic escape in August, after which Kampusch, now aged 18, became an international media sensation.

The book quotes Priklopil's neighbours and colleagues, psychiatrists and media interviews Natascha gave after her ordeal, and speculates on the nature of the relationship between captor and captive during her years in a cell beneath a garage.

Kampusch's lawyer Gerald Ganzger has threatened to sue The Times newspaper's online version which featured extracts from the book on November 23 and 24.

Under Austrian and German law, a person can sue a publication if it breaches his or her "personality rights" and can be read in those countries, notwithstanding where the material was written.

"We have said it loud and clear that Natascha Kampusch will not put up with these untruths and rumours," he told Reuters in Vienna, referring to the book.

"Once we have the authenticated translation next week, we are going to take legal measures under media law against in Austria."

The Times did not return a call on Thursday.

Ganzger said he was unsure if he would pursue legal action against the book's publishers, adding that it would only give the book publicity which Kampusch wanted to avoid.


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