UPDATED: A spate of child molesting in Oslo and nearby Bærum, along with one serious case of sexual assault, has shaken both parents and authorities. Children are no longer being allowed out on their own.
Police in Oslo have received reports that several girls aged eight to 10 have been approached by a child molester this week. “Most describe him as approaching them from behind on a bicycle, which he parks and then he follows them before making contact,” police inspector Hanne KristinRohde told newspaper Aftenposten. “In some cases this approach has allowed him to touch the children outside of their clothing. He is not threatening and goes away when the children react.”
Four complaints have been filed with the police, who are also investigating as many as seven other reports of similar episodes. Schools at Ullevål and Huseby in Oslo have also reported similar incidents. “These are very serious occurrances which make people feel unsafe,” says Rohde.
The most serious incident unrelated to the molestation cases has been the sexual assault on a nine year-old boy at Skøyen on Tuesday, also in west Oslo. A number of witnesses saw the offender, who’s described as very young himself.
“The victim was playing with other children in the playground and we suspect that a young man lured him to a less public area of the school,” says Rohde. On Thursday afternoon, she could report that a suspect was apprehended and he confessed to the assault. Since he’s under the legal age, however, he was not charged with a crime and instead was turned over to juvenile authorities.
Earlier in the week, two girls were approached by a man near Grindbakken School in Oslo’s fashionable Holmenkollen district. A third girl was approached in the playground. Fear of a child molester in the neighbourhood was the main topic of conversation when parents came to collect their children from school on Wednesday.
“We think this is awful. My daughter has just started school and has more than enough to think about. Now this happens just a week into the school term,” Hildegunn Opdal told Aftenposten.
She says parents have organized groups of six children who are escorted to school and fetched home again. Parents have also discussed what to tell their children in relation to what has happened. “First of all, we ask them not to go anywhere on their own. We also ask them to be especially wary of strangers and to stay on their guard,” says Opdal. Other parents are organizing car pools and driving their children to school and after-school activities.