Chloe Rodriguez ... held captive for one week. Photo: AFP
French teenager Chloe Rodriguez's life changed forever simply "by chance".
The man accused of kidnapping the 15-year-old girl from her home in the country's south just stumbled upon his victim, German prosecutors said on Monday, as rape charges were added to the investigation.
Chloe was found on Friday in the boot of a car in the German city of Offenburg, close to the French border, after her disappearance from her home in the village of Barjac in the Gard region sparked a nationwide hunt.
Relieved ... Violette and Jesus Rodriguez. Photo: AFP
The 32-year-old driver of the car was held by German police on suspicion of kidnapping and is facing extradition to France.
At a press conference in Offenburg on Monday, local prosecutor Herwig Schaefer said the suspect had been driving in a stolen car in the village, searching for a victim, and came across the girl.
"By chance at that moment she was coming home, he saw her and decided to kidnap her," he said, adding that the suspect had provided very little other information to investigators.
Back with her family ... Violette Rodriguez hides her daughter Chloe. Photo: AFP
A French judicial source said that rape charges had been added to the case, though investigators have not confirmed the girl was sexually assaulted.
According to a translated version of Metro France, the accused held Chloe captive as he drove to eastern France, into Italy and then to Germany.
She was forced to hide in the boot of the car when they crossed borders because he knew about the nationwide search for the teenager, and he parked in isolated places during the nights.
Found in the boot ... Chloe Rodriguez was discovered in this car. Photo: AFP
Mr Schaefer said Chloe was "often afraid to die", but found comfort by thinking about her friends and family.
Her family said she had memorised details about the man, his car and its licence plate. She had also listened to radio reports about the police search.
The man detained over her kidnapping, who is from the same region as the Rodriguez family, had been released from jail this year after serving time for assaulting six women, local media reports said.
French media reported he was able to evade authorities by changing his address.
Shortly after she was found, her parents said that she was strong, but exhausted.
"Today is too beautiful. There will be two birthdays for my little Chloe," Chloe's mother, Violette, told reporters.
She added: "This man who did her so much harm - there is justice, and justice will be rendered.
"But I thank him anyway, because he kept her alive."
Her father, Jesus, said that Chloe survived by never defying her accused captor.
"She told us that she was able to have a dialogue with this man, and that she obeyed all his orders," Mr Rodriguez told media outside their home.
Fairfax Media with AFP