A high-priority police manhunt for robbers who beat their elderly victims in their homes before stealing their valuables seems to have yielded results. Four men and a woman are now in police custody in Tønsberg.
The five suspects, all from Romania, were arrested on the E-18 highway in Vestfold County late Thursday, after tips about another attempted robbery similar to those that hit the headlines earlier this week. The suspects allegedly had used the same methods, showing up on the doorstep of elderly Norwegians’ homes and asking for water, only to beat their victims and rob them once they entered their victims’ homes.
Police spokesman Kjell Johan Abrahamsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the five persons arrested initially are being charged with two robberies, one in Langhus south of Oslo and another at Billingstad west of Oslo. In both cases, people in their 80s were beaten and robbed, leading police to describe the robberies as “brutal.”
Those arrested are also suspected of other robberies of elderly Norwegians in Romerike and Vestfold. Abrahamsen told NRK that police were “reasonably sure” they had arrested “the right persons” those behind the crime spree.
It remained unclear, however, whether others are also involved. Police have warned homeowners not to open their doors to anyone they don’t know.
The suspects, aged 24 to 36, faced custody hearings on Friday. They were arrested after a woman in Sandefjord called police to report that several strangers had wandered around her house and asked for water.
Her uninvited guests ended up driving off in a BMW that police were able to track down, not least after another call came in that persons in the same car had stolen goods from a gasoline station’s retail outlet in Kodal. They were arrested at the toll plaza in Sande.
Police are now urging anyone else who has experienced encounters with strangers asking for water to contact their local police. Investigators fear there may be more elderly victims or potential victims who haven’t called for help.
Police districts in Telemark, Vestfold, Buskerud and Asker og Bærum cooperated in the manhunt as part of Operasjon Grenseløs (Operation with no borders). Traveling criminal bands, often from eastern Europe, have caused problems for the police in Norway because of their habit of crossing boundaries among police districts, hence the organized cooperation.