Eight-year kidnap girl's mother is to stand trial

AN AUSTRIAN court has ordered the mother of Natascha Kampusch to stand trial over allegations she was involved in the sexual abuse and kidnapping of the girl.

A pre-trial review last month heard a claim by Natascha's mother Brigitta Sirny that there was not enough evidence to support the allegations and that the case should be thrown out.

But a court at Gleisdorf, near Graz, ruled yesterday that there was a case to answer.

Natascha is to be called as a witness in the trial, which is expected to start later in the year.

The case is part of a bid by former Austrian judge Martin Wabl to clear his name after he was prosecuted and convicted for claiming Natascha's mother had been involved in the kidnapping of her daughter.

Mr Wabl, who was twice a presidential candidate for the Green Party and had worked on several missing persons cases involving children, offered to help in the search for Natascha after she vanished in March 1998.

It was the biggest missing persons operation in Austrian history and he suggested he could help after solving one missing child case.

He met Ms Sirny at the time and told the court that he was instantly concerned because of her apparent lack of interest in looking for her daughter.

"What made me suspicious was that she said near the start she had given up hope. This is not usual for a mother whose child has gone missing," he said.

When he started to gather evidence, he was reported to police and later forced by a court order to let the matter drop.

Because of new evidence, including the fact Natascha has been found, Mr Wabl had applied for the matter to be looked at again and had gathered nine witnesses to back up allegations that Natascha's mother was behind her disappearance.

He told the pre-trial review: "All the evidence shows that there was sexual abuse and that the mother was involved, and that she arranged her daughter's kidnapping to cover up what had happened. Austrian prosecutors and police who realised they had made mistakes were content to throw a veil of secrecy over the whole matter."

He added that he had evidence from former senior police officers who were also convinced there had been abuse before the kidnapping and handed in pictures of Natascha aged three, naked, wearing riding boots and holding a whip. He said: "These pictures taken by her family are questionable."

Natascha escaped after eight- and-a-half years as a captive in the cellar at Wolfgang Priklopil's house near Vienna in August last year. Hours later Priklopil committed suicide.