MAY 3 2008 19:48h
Natascha Kampusch, three sisters locked in the dark for 7 years, a child whose father kept her in the cellar for 24 years, Madeleine McCann.
The revelation that a father kept his own daughter a prisoner for 24 years and fathered her seven children shocked the world. But that case is not an isolated one. It only brought back the memories of other sick crimes that happened in the past.
The most lengthy abuse cases happened in Austria
Austria holds the infamous record in child kidnapping cases. But the police and the public are hoping that no more children will be ever kept prisoner in their country, such as was the case with Elisabeth, Natascha and three sisters, Viktoria, Katharina and Elisabeth.
Natascha Kampusch was kept prisoner for eight years and escaped her captive in August 2006. When she was ten years old, Wolfgang Prikopil kidnapped her and carefully kept her away from prying eyes by locking her away in a room under his garage. Natascha later said that Prikopil did not rape her and treated her kindly. He even took her skiing. But she was not allowed to go to school or have any friends. She was his property. She escaped one morning while she was washing his car and he was talking on the telephone. After she ran away, Prikopil killed himself for fear of being lynched by the public.
But Natascha came out of it physically and psychologically healthy. Besides, she earned a great deal of money selling her story to the media who fought to get the scoop on her captivity story. But three sisters who were held captive in total darkness by their own mother were not so lucky.
At the ages of 7, 11 and 13, Viktoria, Elisabeth and Katharina fell victims to their mother’s breakdown after a divorce. Their mother withdrew them from school, claiming they would be home tutored. She managed to convince the court that her ex husband was abusive and the court forbade him to see his children. She kept her daughters in total darkness for seven years and the place they lived in was full of garbage and filth. The girls later said they played with mice and communicated with a language they had made up. Unfortunately, all three suffer from grievous psychological consequences of their captivity.
Great Britain shocked by two kidnappings and murders
Two kidnappings happened in England and one was inspired by the other. Three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared while on vacation with her parents in Portugal on May 3, 2007. She has still not been found and is presumed dead.
Inspired by her case and the attention it received, the mother of nine-year-old Sharon Matthews and her lover on November 11 staged the girl’s kidnapping and tried to get hold of money from a missing children’s association. But after a 24-hour search in which 300 police and 60 detectives were involved, the girl was found under her mother’s lover’s bed. The mother and her lover were jailed and the child was given to social services.
But Great Britain was also shaken by a case of murder. Eight-year-old Sarah Payne was kidnapped near a corn field in West Sussex. She had been kidnapped by a registered paedophile, a car mechanic by the name of Roy Whiting. He killed her after her parents appeared on television pleading to get their daughter back. He got life in prison.
Paedophiles are most frequent abductors
Paedophiles are the most frequent culprits in child kidnapping cases, but it is rare for them to keep a child for a longer period of time. Most often they turn to other victims. So it is incomprehensible what Roy Whiting had done. A Belgian paedophile, Marc Dutrox, also did something that was atypical of a paedophile. He kidnapped 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne and held her in his home for 80 days, sexually molesting her every day in 1996. Sabine managed to free herself, however and Marc got 15 years in jail.
We should not forget to mention the greatest tragedy of them all. In September 2004 Chechen rebels kidnapped all the children from a Beslan primary school and killed 331 of them.
Americans kidnap for ransom
Europe is not the only part of the world where children are abused, although most kidnappings do occur there. June Candelario kept her grandson in a dog house for three years for 11 hours of each day. Luckily, a passing police officer noticed the child and saved it. The grandmother was sentenced to five years in prison.
The United States are more fruitful ground for ransom-motivated kidnappings. The daughter of a media mogul, Patty Hearst, was kidnapped at the age of 19 in February 1974. She was kidnapped by a terrorist organisation whose goal was to free America from “fascist vermin”. The group demanded 70 million dollars to release Patty. But the bizarre fact was that she later joined the group. For this she spent two years in prison before she was pardoned by President Jimmy Carter.
The oldest kidnapping in which the youngest child ever had been kidnapped, happened back in March of 1932. The grandson of the famous American pilot Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped at only 20 months old. After a ten-week search the baby was found dead. Bruno Hauptmann was accused of the crime, his only motive being jealousy.