Justice officials in Austria yesterday took the unprecedented step of releasing files concerning their investigation into the kidnapping of Natascha Kampusch amid criticism that state prosecutors systematically ignored evidence that a paedophile ring was involved.
While the stated purpose of the publication of the files is to quell speculation, the documents actually reinforce the impression that several people were involved in the kidnapping of Kampusch in 1998 and that the state prosecutor systematically ignored the evidence.
In a report dated Secember 9th, 2009, the state prosecutor in charge Dr Thomas Mühlbacher describes in detail how a witness saw two men involved in the kidnapping of the then 8-year-old girl – and not just Wolfgang Priklopil.
The witness also described what happened in a video reconstruction in 2006.
Mühlbacher’s report explains that Priklopil stopped in an isolated woods and made phone calls in an excited state after abducting Kampusch. He gave Kampusch to understand that there were “others” involved, but they had not shown up. Finally, Priklopil drove her back his own house and created a make-shift prison for Kampusch because he had made no preparations to keep her.
A few days later, 500,000 schillings was transferred to Priklopil’s account. The transfer of such a large sum of money strongly suggests the notion that a group had paid him (and his business partner?) to kidnap Kampusch, and that something had gone wrong at the last moment, but that the cash rich group had decided to honour an agreement given the fact Kampusch had, in fact, been kidnapped and was being held captive.
Priklopil drove a BMW 850 and owned a large house and it is not clear where his money was coming from. But there is absolutely no sign the state prosecutors ever asked any questions about his income stream. Mühlbacher states that Priklopil could not have had much of an income from his business and that his share was estimated as worthless by a court on his death, but he does not pursue the question of where Priklopil was getting the money to buy luxury cars and such like from.
That Priklopil was involved in regularly kidnapping children for a paedophile ring is the obvious answer. In spite of the seriousness of the crime, there is no indication that Mühlbacher ordered bank accounts to be opened or investigated payments made to Priklopil and his partner in previous years or attempted, for example, to correlate any such payments with dates when children were reported to have disappeared. There is no sign that any inquiry was made to find out where the 500,000 schillings paid to Priklopil ultimately came from.
In 2008, evidence emerged that Priklopil was a member of a sado masochistic milieu but no attempt appears to have been made to further these inquiries.
Mühlbacher admits in his report that “there is a suspicion that Wolfgang Priklopil carried out the kidnapping on the orders of or together with one or more other actors, but the plan failed in the final moment.”
But the statement is left hanging in the air.
The final reports by Muhlbacher from December 2009 adds virtually nothing new to the body of existing knowledge in spite of the vast range of tools that police can use to further their inquiries such as questioning suspects, examining bank accounts, phone records, surveillance etc. It also ignores the open questions.
Mühlbacher’s concluding report, which appears to have been used to justify dropping the investigation, reads like nothing more than a brief summary of what witnesses and the victim said at the beginning of the investigation – and even at this stage the evidence collected was limited. A diary kept by Kampusch vanished into a safe. Inquiries were blocked into photos and computer records found in Priklopil’s house.
The police inspector Franz Kröll appointed to carry out the investigation had a long list of valid questions that are not mentioned or addressed by Mühlbacher.
The questions include:
– Why did Priklopil phone so many people just after Kampusch finally escaped in 2006 and just before he died? Who did he phone? Why were all these people apparently never questioned?
– Why did Priklopil’s partner forge his suicide note?
– Did Priklopil really commit suicide or was he killed and thrown in front of the train given the many inconsistencies surrounding the nature of his death and injuries?
– Why did the police not conduct forensic tests of his body temperature when they were informed by a phone call just one minute after Priklopil was allegedly killed by a commuter train?
According to accounts, Kröll said he had been put under extreme pressure not to carry out a proper investigation and that a cover up was underway.
And far from putting an end to “adventurous conspiracy theories” as lawyer Richard Soyer maintains, the reports released deliver concrete proof of just such a cover up.
Bizarrely, the state prosecutors under fire appeared to think that releasing these reports displaying incompetence and inadequate inquiries in every single page would exonerate them. This in an age where every second person in Austria watches police TV dramas like Tatort and is familiar with all the basic steps of a police investigation.
If the Austrian people set about gathering evidence on the Kampusch case using an internet platform such as Wikikampusch, it’s a fair bet that they would have more success in finding the real culprits in one week than Mühlbacher had in four years.
The people of Austria would probably also find out what happened to Kröll more efficiently.
On June 25, 2010, Kröll was found shot dead on the balcony of his flat in Graz. Even though he was right-handed, the police report from June 27thstated he shot himself with his left hand, something considered to be highly improbable.
At the beginning of 2010, state prosecutors coolly wrapped up the Kampusch investigation and it was left to retired judge Johann Rzeszut to make a dramatic intervention and write to parliamentarians this year, pointing out that there had hardly been any investigation.
The failure by state prosecutors to investigate evidence of crimes is becoming a depressing pattern, also in regard to Hypo Alpe Adria.
The Kampuschcase has now been handed over to a judge in Innsbruck – and we can only hope this judge has been offered extra protection.
In another bizarre twist, the brother of Kröll was jailed this month, charged with stealing 5000 euros from his brother’s flat as well as the evidence Franz Kröll had collected that a paedophile ring was involved.
However, anyone who has had to undergo the obligatory local court’s listing of a deceased person’s assets in Austria, as I have in connection with the death of my own father, knows that the court official takes all cash and valuables with them, and keeps them until the estate is settled (or until the heir is put under a court guardianship or framed and jailed before being robbed by the above officials).
Where did this 5000 euros come from? How did the court know about it if it was not by conducting an inventory? And why, if an inventory was conducted, was the cash left in the flat?
It cannot be ruled out that he was being framed by the very same justice officials who have expended so much effort in covering up evidence that a dangerous paedophile ring was involved in the kidnapping of Kampusch and that this group has excellent contacts to leading state prosecutors and judges.
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