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Austrian police say DNA tests prove identity of woman who vanished eight years ago

SHARE Austrian police say DNA tests prove identity of woman who vanished eight years ago

VIENNA, Austria — A young woman escaped eight years of captivity by bolting when her abductor stepped away because the noise while she was vacuuming his car interfered with his phone call, authorities said Friday.

Austrian police also confirmed that DNA tests proved Natascha Kampusch's identity. Relatives already identified her, but police had been waiting for the results to remove any doubt.

Erich Zwettler, the head of Austria's federal police, told reporters the young woman escaped from her abductor in an unguarded moment while he stepped away from to talk on his cell phone. Police originally had said she had escaped when the small metal door of her underground cell was left open.

Natascha's sister told Austrian TV on Thursday that her mother almost had a breakdown when police notified her of the discovery of the young woman. She said her mother always held onto the hope that Natascha would come back one day.

"She always said she was still alive," said the sister, identified as Sabina Sirny.

Kampusch vanished on her way to school on March 2, 1998. The man who allegedly abducted her killed himself Wednesday a few hours after she sought help at a home on the quiet, small-town street where she says she was held.

Police, who confirmed the identity of the alleged kidnapper as Wolfgang Priklopil, a 44-year-old communications technician, said he killed himself by throwing himself in front of a commuter train in Vienna.

Expressing relief and incredulity that Kampusch was found alive, Interior Minister Liese Prokop told reporters: "We were only looking for a corpse."

Photos released by police of the hiding place in his house where the young woman said she was kept showed a small, cluttered room with narrow concrete stairs leading down to it from an entrance so small it would have to be crawled through. Another photo showed a metal hatch that sealed the windowless, underground room.

Police on Thursday said there was a bed and a toilet in the cramped space. Images on TV showed a small television in the room, which also had a sink and was littered with piles of books. Police said the woman was occasionally allowed to watch videos.

Strasshof is a semi-rural community where tidy houses adorned with flower boxes are mostly set close together. Children play freely in the streets and doors are left open. Neighbors said they were shocked by the reports and had seen no signs of anything to raise suspicion.

Nikolaus Koch, a lead investigator, said on Austrian television that police had contact with Priklopil about three months after Natascha disappeared in 1998 but he had a "sturdy alibi" at the time.

At the time, another girl told police she had seen Natascha being dragged into a white van.

Police tracked down the van Thursday and were investigating if Priklopil had an accomplice, Austrian TV reported.