Natascha Kampusch left her family's residence in Vienna's Donaustadt district on the morning of 2 March 1998, but failed to arrive at school or come home. A 12-year-old witness reported having seen her being dragged into a white minibus by two men. A massive police effort followed in which 776 minivans were examined, including that of her kidnapper, Přiklopil.
During the eight years of her captivity, Kampusch was held in a small cellar underneath Přiklopil's garage. The entrance was concealed behind a cupboard. It had a door made of concrete and was reinforced with steel. The room had no windows and was soundproof. For the first six months of her captivity, Kampusch was not allowed to leave the chamber at any time, and for several years of her captivity she was not allowed to leave the tiny space at night. Afterwards, she spent increasing amounts of time upstairs in the rest of the house, but each night was sent back to the chamber to sleep, as well as while Přiklopil was at work.
The 18-year-old Kampusch reappeared on 23 August 2006. At 12:53 pm, when Kampusch was cleaning and vacuuming her kidnapper's automobile in the garden, Přiklopil got a call on his mobile phone. Because of the vacuuming noise, he walked away to take the call. Kampusch left the vacuum cleaner running and ran away, unseen by Přiklopil, who, according to the caller, completed the phone call without any sign of being disturbed or distracted. Kampusch ran for some 200 metres through gardens and a street, jumping fences, and asking passers-by to call the police, but they paid her no attention. After about five minutes, she knocked on the window of a 71-year-old neighbour known as Inge T, saying, "I am Natascha Kampusch". The neighbour called the police, who arrived at 1:04 pm. Later, Kampusch was taken to the police station in the town of Deutsch-Wagram.
Přiklopil, knowing that the police were after him, killed himself by jumping in front of a suburban train near the Wien Nord station in Vienna. He had apparently planned to commit suicide rather than be caught, having told Kampusch that "they would not catch him alive".