Kidnapped triathlete talked her way to freedom

Nathalie Birli in June 2017Image copyright
Nathalie Birli

Image caption

Nathalie Birli

An Austrian triathlete who says she was kidnapped, stripped naked and threatened with drowning has revealed how she convinced her captor to release her after complimenting his orchids.

Nathalie Birli says she was abducted on Tuesday afternoon as she rode her bike.

She says her kidnapper – who was “full of hate” – struck her with his van before taking her to his home, where he subjected her to a terrifying ordeal.

But just hours later, she managed to convince the man to drive her home.

The incident – which the new mother later described in a Facebook post as akin to something from “a bad movie” – ended when police managed to track her bike back to the 33-year-old suspect’s home and arrest him.

‘Suggested a deal’

In an interview with Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung (in German), Ms Birli, 27, said the man hit her over the head with a stick, tied her up and threw her into the back of his car after driving into her as she cycled along the road near the city of Graz at about 17:00 local time (15:00 GMT).

Ms Birli – whose arm had been broken in the crash – said she lost consciousness, and awoke, naked and tied to a chair, in a house she did not recognise.

The knife-wielding man promised her at first that he would release her the next day, blindfolding her and forcing alcohol into her mouth.

But she said he then tried to suffocate her before forcing her into a bath and telling her he wanted to drown her.

It was then she noticed his orchids and – after complimenting them – he began to open up about his “dead father, a mother addicted to alcohol and girlfriends who betrayed him”.

She said it gave her a chance to beg for her release, suggesting they did a deal.

“I made a suggestion to the man – let’s say it was an accident,” she revealed.

The man agreed, untying his victim and driving her all the way home, where her partner – who was at home with her 14-week-old son – alerted the police.

On Wednesday, from the safety of a medical centre, she thanked those who had looked for her while she was missing, but added it would have been impossible to find the house where she had been kept captive.

“Thank God I was able to free myself, and am well – except for a broken arm and a head injury,” she wrote.

Graz police spokesman Fritz Grundnig confirmed to the Associated Press that a man was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the alleged kidnapping.

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