Jaycee Lee Dugard's prison in the back yard: The soundproof shed that hid the secret kidnap girl
29th August 2009
With its white picket fence, wooden shutters and neat front lawn, it is hard to believe the dark secrets that lay behind the front door of the Garrido family home for almost two decades.
No 1554 Walnut Avenue in the California town of Antioch seamlessly matches its surroundings with a collection of ramshackle outbuildings on land to the rear.
Far from being an isolated, rural property, it is sandwiched between homes on all sides and less than an hour's drive from San Francisco.
While thick trees and bushes block two sides, neighbours on one side could have peered easily over - or through - the tumbledown wooden fencing.
Had they done so they would have seen the 80ft garden sectioned off into three parts. The rear two are believed to be the secret compound where Jaycee and her daughters were held in a collection of tents and structures.
In one tent, a bouquet of yellow flowers was visible yesterday. In front of another, a pair of children's pink pyjama bottoms had been laid out by federal agents.
There were several ragged lawn chairs, a couch, a well-used barbecue and several parched garden plants. On one shed, a heart-shaped wall hanging was painted with the word 'spring.'
According to police, the dusty old car Garrido used to abduct Jaycee 18 years ago had been placed to block her view and was not visible from the road. In the last third of the land, an empty plastic swimming pool covered in leaves and dirt sat in one corner.
Close by was a set of swings and a plastic yellow slide next to a white chair. Further evidence of the presence of children was a trampoline with a teddy bear lying on top.
Home for Jaycee and her two daughters was two sheds which could be opened only from the outside - one a sound-proofed white building in the garden's middle section.
The other, a dilapidated construction with a patched wooden roof, was discovered at the far end of the garden, partly hidden by trees.
Adjoining it - and enclosed by blue tarpaulin - is a rudimentary shower and lavatory.
FBI and police investigators yesterday covered large areas of the garden with plastic sheeting as they began picking through the extraordinary crime scene.
Meanwhile neighbours in the working-class community - which has one of the highest repossession rates in the U.S. - appeared to have noticed little that gave them cause for concern over the years.
They were aware Garrido was a convicted sex offender and gave him a wide berth.
None could recall seeing anyone fitting Jaycee's description although some did admit seeing glimpses of her two girls.
Sam Martinez, 21, who lived across the road from Garrido for a year, said: 'I saw the girls once or twice. They had blonde hair. I didn't really think about who they might be. I only saw them come out to get into his windowless van. Apart from that it seemed they were always inside. I thought he was creepy, but I could never have guessed what was going on.'
Heather McQuaid-Glace, 37, said: 'People knew about his background but we never saw anything suspicious at the house.
'We never heard screaming, we never heard anyone crying for help. There was nothing to give cause for alarm.'
How can any victim recover from having 18 years of her life stolen by a monster?
Two intriguing precedents offer a compelling insight into the months that lie ahead for Jaycee Lee Dugard and her two daughters.
There is Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl in the cellar who also had her life stolen when she was just a child. And we will never forget Elisabeth Fritzl - another Austrian - held captive by her own father and forced to bear his children.
These two cases, which I studied in detail for books I wrote about both crimes, have a great deal to tell us about the future for the American captives.
First, while Jaycee's freedom is a cause for great celebration, she will be a prisoner of her tormentor for many years to come.
It will be the task of the psychiatrists, navigating the minefield of her and her daughters' abused psyches, to try to bring some normality into their shattered lives.
This has been the goal of the doctors charged with caring for Natascha, and for Elisabeth and the six children she bore to her twisted father.
Perhaps surprisingly, Natascha, who was held captive for eight years, is much more damaged by her ordeal than Elisabeth Fritzl is by hers.
Kidnapped at the age of ten by loner Wolfgang Priklopil on Monday March 2, 1998 as she trudged to school, Natascha was sealed up in a cellar and became the possession of a man who could not have normal relationships with women.
Unlike a paedophile who desires only sexual gratification, Priklopil's obsession was to make Natascha love him. And in a bizarre way, she did, even after he took his life by jumping in front of a train.
To this day, she carries his photograph around in her handbag, lives at weekends in the house where she was a captive, and spends hours cleaning the cellar where she was held. Recently, she even bought her kidnapper's car, which he was cleaning on the day she escaped after eight-and-a-half years.
I spoke to one of her carers, who told me how damaged Natascha was by her ordeal. 'She did not go through the normal developmental phases like everyone else. She had no puberty or adolescence and, more importantly, she had no chance of interaction with others. 'She is still a fragile young woman who has endured an ordeal that none of us can even comprehend.'
Doctors are still trying to break her Stockholm Syndrome - the binding of captive to captor - which held Natascha in such thrall in the months following her freedom. They have not been entirely successful.
For the cellar remains a magnet for her, a place of sanctuary where she felt safe - before her captivity she lived in a lonely flat with a mother who was rarely there.
Which brings us to the Fritzls; truly a family who have travelled through the harshest psychological wilderness.
Elisabeth Fritzl was hauled into a cellar by her father Josef in August 1984. She endured 24 years of captivity and 3,000 rapes.
After regaining her freedom, Elisabeth had first to be taught self-respect and that what occurred was not her fault. Purging sex-crime victims of this destructive self-loathing is paramount.
She and the three children who spent their entire lives underground with her had to learn to cope with the panic attacks, the sudden anxiety which in a heartbeat placed her back in that concrete dungeon.
Dealing with the disorientation, shock, anger, guilt and sadness has been excruciatingly slow.
But Elisabeth has broken with a demonic past in the way that Natascha Kampusch has not. The doctors are delighted with her progress - not least because she has fallen in love. One of her bodyguards assigned to protect her in the frenzy which followed her freedom is now her partner.
As Elisabeth and her new relationship have proved, redemption IS possible.