Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Missing US girl freed after 18 years

A woman kidnapped when she was only 11 is reunited with her family after an 18-year ordeal.

A woman, kidnapped when she was only 11, was reunited with her family yesterday after an 18-year ordeal during which she was kept in a hidden backyard and had two children with her abductor. Jaycee Lee Dugard, now 29, was found after she accompanied Phillip Garrido, a convicted sex offender and rapist, to a meeting with his parole officer. Mr Garrido, 58, is believed to have kidnapped Miss Dugard in 1991 and fathered her two girls, now aged 11 and 15. He and his 54-year-old wife, Nancy, were in police custody after being charged with kidnapping Miss Dugard to commit rape.

The pair were arrested on Wednesday by the FBI, Capt Daniel Terry of the Contra Costa County sheriff's office said. A search of their home in the town of Antioch in California close to San Francisco "revealed a hidden backyard within a backyard," the El Dorado County undersheriff Fred Kollar said. "The hidden backyard contained tents, sheds and outhouses, where Jaycee and the girls spent most of their lives."

Miss Dugard was kidnapped on June 10 1991 by two occupants in a car right before the eyes of her helpless stepfather Carl Probyn, who gave chase on a bicycle but failed to stop the abduction. "I had personally given up hope," Mr Probyn told ABC News. "I had just hoped for a recovery" and to find those responsible, he added. But early on Thursday, Mr Probyn, his wife Terry and another daughter flew from Riverside, California to San Francisco to finally be reunited with their long-lost relative.

Miss Dugard , the undersheriff said, "is in good health, but living in a backyard for 18 years does take its toll". She and her two children, who have not been named, reportedly lived in a series of sheds - including a soundproofed one that could only be opened from the outside - and tents in the yard belonging to Mr Garrido, who was on a federal parole for a 1971 rape and kidnapping. "None of the children have ever been to school, they have never been to a doctor," Mr Kollar said. "They were kept in complete isolation in this compound."

The tents and sheds, he explained "were placed in a strategic arrangement to inhibit outside viewing and to isolate the victims from outside contact". Police found a car hidden in the yard that matched the description originally given of the vehicle driven by Miss Dugard's kidnappers. The long-dormant kidnap case began to unravel this week, when police at the University of California, Berkeley spotted Mr Garrido acting suspiciously on campus as he tried to hand out religious literature, Mr Kollar said.

Mr Garrido was then called in by his California parole officer for a follow-up visit on Wednesday. He showed up for the grilling with the two children, his wife and Miss Dugard, whom he had renamed Allissa. The parole officer, who had previously visited Mr Garrido's home, had never seen "Allissa" and the two girls, "and thought that the individuals were suspicious," Mr Kollar said. The parole agent contacted the Concord, California police department, which conducted interviews with the woman identified as Allissa and discovered that she was in fact Miss Dugard.

Miss Dugard's rescue had parallels with two other recent cases, both in Austria. In 2006, Austrian teenager Natascha Kampusch escaped her captor, mentally disturbed Wolfgang Priklopil, who snatched her in March 1998 when she was only 10 years old. Mr Priklopil subsequently killed himself. And Josef Fritzl was sentenced to life in prison in March for having imprisoned his daughter in a windowless dungeon for 24 years, raping her repeatedly and fathering seven children by her, one of whom he allowed to die.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 A view of a defaced portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korean rally on the 102nd birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in central Seoul. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Best photography from around the world, April 15

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National