Man held in 16-year-old murder case

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UPDATED: Police in Vestfold have re-arrested a man and charged him with the murder of 12-year-old Kristin Juel Johannessen 16 years ago this summer. The so-called “Kristin case” shook Norway at the time, not only because a child was killed but because police failed to convict her killer.

Now, after arresting suspects earlier but failing to prove they’d killed the 12-year-old, police are certain they have the right man. They said at a press conference in Larvik on Thursday that they base their certainty on “new and better DNA analysis” that “made this (the arrest) possible.”

The man now under arrest is 38 years old and one of the same suspects earlier arrested and convicted of killing Kristin Juel Johannesen but cleared in an appeals case. He was re-arrested in Larvik Wednesday evening and began undergoing police questioning on Thursday. He’s been charged with pre-meditated murder but continues to claim he had nothing to do with the girl’s murder. His defense attorney told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Thursday night that it was “too early” to comment on the new evidence police have presented to both him and his client.

Never turned up for swimming
Kristin Juel Johannessen disappeared on the evening of August 5, 1999. She bicycled away from her home in Østre Hedrum outside Larvik at around 6:30pm, bound for a nearby lake called Goksjø to meet a girlfriend and go swimming.

The young Johannessen never turned up, though. Her family started searching for her and reported her missing around 9pm that same evening. Police and volunteers joined the search and two men found her bicycle in the nearby forest. Her body was found around 11:30pm, not far from her bicycle. Police later reported she had been strangled but not sexually abused.

A week later, police arrested a 54-year-old man with a history of psychiatric trouble, but he was cleared and released three months later. In February of 2000, police arrested another suspect, a man who was 23 at the time and seen riding a moped in the area of the murder scene at the time Johannessen disappeared. He was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison but he won aquittal on appeal when DNA evidence was brought into question. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Thursday that he was also awarded damages for the time he’d spent in custody.

‘Enormous relief’
Now he’s been arrested again in a case that has prompted harsh criticism of the Vestfold Police District, not least from the murder victim’s father, Roar Juel Johannessen. He has never given up hope of finding his daughter’s killer, and told newspaper VG earlier this year that he knew who the murderer was but needed help and didn’t have faith in the local police.

It was the local police, however, who re-arrested the now-38-year-old man, based on both DNA evidence and help from a police psychologist. “This is a case that we wanted to clear up,” local police chief Christine Fossen told reporters on Thursday. “We believe we have good reason to go further with this.” She also said the arrest “must be seen as an enormous relief for the family, who have lived with uncertainty for many years.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund