Athlete kidnapped, stripped naked
A triathlete who was kidnapped and forced into a van, then driven to a rundown house on the outskirts of town, managed to gain her freedom by complimenting her abductor's orchids.
Nathalie Birli, 27, a cycling champion, was knocked off her bike and snatched by a man driving a red delivery van while she was training near her home in Austria.
Birli, who has a 14-week-old son, said her attacker drove into her, beat her with a stick and bound her hands with duct tape before forcing her into his van.
"I was hit, beaten, caught up and brought to a small house off the road - like in a bad movie," she wrote on Facebook.
Birli told Austrian media she broke her left forearm when she was hit by the van, before the man hit her over the head with a piece of wood.
"He bound my hands with electrical insulation tape and threw me on to the back seat. I must have been unconscious for a while," she said.
"When I came to, I was naked and tied to a chair in an old house. The man said: 'If you do what I want, you'll be free tomorrow.'
"I had the feeling that I was in a house far away from help and I was sure that no one would find me there."
Ms Birli said she was blindfolded and forced at knifepoint to drink schnapps amid threats he would drown her in his bath.
"He forced my mouth and nose shut and tried to suffocate me. He let go of me but then he forced me to get into a bathtub full of cold water and wanted to drown me," she said.
Her partner, who was caring for their baby at home, called police at around 9pm when she failed to return. A search involving dozens of her fellow triathletes failed to find her.
However, Birli managed to talk her way to freedom after noticing her kidnapper's house was full of orchids.
She began to build rapport with her captor by complimenting him on his flowers. The exchange prompted him to confide in her and agree to her release.
"All of a sudden the culprit was nice to me," the young mum said. "He said he was a gardener and he told me all about his messed-up life - that his father had died, that his mother had become an alcoholic and that his girlfriend had cheated on him.
"I made him a suggestion: 'Let's just say it was an accident and you can let me go now.' He accepted the deal and cut the tape. I was allowed to get dressed and then he drove me all the way to my front door."
After escaping from the ordeal, Birli returned home. The following day she wrote on Facebook: "Thank God I was able to free myself and I am well except for a broken arm and a head injury."
Police reportedly used the GPS data on her racing bicycle to locate the man at his house where he was later arrested.
It is not clear whether the 33-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was known to Birli before the attack.
Birli has won titles at under-23 level in triathlons and short-distance duathlon. Local newspapers reported she has also won her country's national women's cycling league.
She became the youngest licensed triathlon trainer in Austria and started work at the Institute for Sports Nutrition Research in Graz.
This article was originally published by The Sun and reproduced with permission