Suspect charged in prostitute’s murder

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UPDATED: Police in Oslo have arrested a 24-year-old man and charged him with the murder last month of a prostitute from Bulgaria. The arrest came after a complicated investigation that involved technical tracking of the victim’s mobile telephone.

The murder of 28-year-old Galina Sandeva had spread fear among prostitutes in the Norwegian capital. Selling sex is not illegal in Norway, although buying it is. Many involved in both sides of the trade had been reluctant to speak with police, but after police issued assurances there would be no repercussions for clients of Oslo’s sex sellers, they received many tips.

‘Demanding’ investigation
Sandeva had sold sex from her car, which was found parked at Bispekaia on Oslo’s eastern waterfront, just behind the Opera House, on December 17 with Sandeva’s badly battered body inside. Police described the murder as especially brutal and promised a thorough investigation.

Their probe was later described as “demanding,” not only because of the sensitivities tied to the case but also because police had to sift through masses of telephone records in the hopes of tracking information from Sandeva’s phone. She had made a distress call shortly before she’s believed to have been murdered, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Her phone was then traced to a base station in Oslo’s Ila neighbourhood around an hour after what a coroner had established as her time of death.

Police said the man charged with murdering Sandeva is originally from Østlandet (Eastern Norway) and has lived in Oslo for several years. The suspect, who has a record of what police called minor infractions, was arrested at his workplace on Monday afternoon. NRK reported the man worked very close to the murder scene.

“We have had a thorough and demanding investigation throughout the Christmas and New Year’s holidays,” Police Inspector Grete Lien Metlid of the Oslo Police District said at a press conference Monday night. “It resulted in the arrest Monday afternoon and we are of course very satisfied with that. We have experienced great public interest in this case and many people have been affected, many took contact with the police.”

‘Ties to the case’
While police wouldn’t reveal exactly what led them to the suspect, his defense attorney said his client has acknowledged “ties to the case” but denies being guilty of premeditated murder.

“He has, in a lengthy clarification, tied himself to the case, but not to the charges (of premeditated murder) against him,” defense attorney Joar Berg Henjum told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “He has, under questioning, said he is very sorry for what happened (to Sandeva). Beyond that I don’t think it’s correct to comment on his feelings right now.”

Newspaper VG reported Tuesday morning that police crime technicians had found a mobile telephone just 100 meters from the suspect’s home. NRK later reported the 24-year-old suspect himself led investigators to the spot where he’d thrown what is believed to be Sandeva’s phone into a grate on the sidewalk near his home.

“This murder has created a lot of unease, many have felt fear,” Metlid said. “That’s why it’s important for us to spread information about how the case is developing.” She said Sandeva’s family had been kept directly informed and that police would now concentrate on questioning the suspect and securing evidence. She said police did not expect to make any additional arrests. Berglund