Austrian triathlete Nathalie Birli survives kidnapping after convincing man to free her

Nathalie Birli was training when she said she was abducted by a man who knocked her down with his car - @nathi_birli/instagram
Nathalie Birli was training when she said she was abducted by a man who knocked her down with his car - @nathi_birli/instagram

An Austrian triathlete survived a kidnapping in which she was first hit by a car, tied up with duct tape and then taken to a remote house where she was held for hours before convincing her abductor to release her, police said. A 33-year-old man has been arrested.

Nathalie Birli, 27, was training with her bicycle on a road in Kumberg in southern Austria on Tuesday afternoon when she was abducted, Graz police spokesman Fritz Grundnig said. The attacker, whose name wasn't given according to Austrian privacy rules, was arrested on Wednesday.

Birli said that she was on her bicycle when a car rammed into her and knocked her over, according to an interview published in local newspaper Krone on Thursday. She said she broke her left arm in the fall and the driver then beat her with a stick and threw her into the back seat.

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Birli, who has a 14-week-old son, said that she lost consciousness for a while, and when she woke up she was naked and tied to an armchair, Krone reported.

"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."

Birli said at some point he held her nose and mouth and she thought he wanted to suffocate her but then stopped and forced her into a bathtub with cold water "to drown me."

She said the situation began to change when she saw that there were a lot of orchids in the house and she expressed her admiration for the plants.

"All of a sudden the attacker was nice to me," Birli told Krone. He told her that he was a gardener and started talking about his horrible life - "a dead father, a mother addicted to alcohol and girlfriends who betrayed him," Birli said.

Birli said that was the moment when she suggested a "deal" to the man.

"'Let's pretend it was an accident,' I offered him, 'and you let me go.'"

He agreed, took off the duct tape and drove her all the way home, she said.

"I went right into the house, locked the door and called my partner," Birli said.

Police managed to track down the suspect and he was arrested early Wednesday by Austria's Cobra special forces.

Birli, in a Facebook post on Wednesday, said the experience was like a "bad movie" and thanked all who went out looking for her when she was missing.

"Thank God I could liberate myself, and other than a fractured arm and a head injury, I'm fine," she said.