27 Jul 2019

Austrian triathlete 'persuaded kidnapper to release her'

10:09 am on 27 July 2019

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

Nathalie Birli said she was abducted while cycling near Graz on Tuesday.

She said 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'

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, Ms Birli, 27, told Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung (in German).

Ms Birli - whose arm was broken in the crash - said she had lost consciousness, and had awoken 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 he then tried to suffocate her, she said, before forcing her into a bath and telling her he wanted to drown her.

It was then she noticed his orchids and - after she had complimented him on them - he began to open up about his "dead father, a mother addicted to alcohol and girlfriends who betrayed him".

This, she said, 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 had been arrested on Wednesday in connection with the alleged kidnapping.