Nathalie Birli, 27, says she survived a kidnapping incident by praising her captor’s orchid collection and winning his trust, in an ordeal that ended with him dropping her off at home. Police later arrested the 33-year-old suspect, whom they said has psychiatric problems.
Birli says she was captured on July 23 while training on her bike near the city of Graz for a triathlon event, police spokesperson Fritz Grundnig told The Associated Press.
She says a man in a car struck her bike, knocking her off and leaving her with a broken arm, she told the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung. The man then got out of the car and knocked her out with a piece of wood.
“When I regained consciousness, I was naked and tied up in an armchair in an old house,” she told the paper.
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Birli, who has a three-month-old son, says her captor tried to suffocate her and dunked her in an ice-cold bathtub.
“He was full of hatred,” she said. “He blindfolded me, forced me to drink wine and schnapps and he always held a knife in his hand.”
However, she managed to calm him down and win his trust by complimenting the many orchids on display around the house, she said.
“All of a sudden the attacker was nice to me,” she told Krone.
Birli says her captor told her he was a gardener who’d lived a difficult life that involved “a dead father, a mother addicted to alcohol and girlfriends who betrayed him.”
Birli says she struck a deal with the man.
“‘Let’s pretend it was an accident,’ I offered him, ‘and you let me go.'”
The man eventually agreed. He brought her back to her home and dropped her off with her bike, which had a GPS recorder on it.
Police used the GPS recorder to find the man’s address and place him under arrest.
Authorities are now trying to determine if the suspect was involved in any other kidnapping cases. They have not released his name.
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Birli thanked those who searched for her in a Facebook post on Wednesday, and compared the whole ordeal to a “bad movie.”
“Thank God I was able to free myself and am well except for a broken arm and a head injury,” she wrote.
—With files from The Associated Press
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