New leads in Oslo rape cases

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Vital DNA evidence has been retrieved in the effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of a series of rapes in Oslo since Saturday night, while the Labour Party candidate for leader of Oslo city council has controversially called for new asylum seekers to be psychologically tested to find possible rapists.

Police confirmed that they had taken biological samples from the victims of four rapes that happened over a five hour period on Saturday night and earlier Sunday morning, which occurred in the areas of Sofienberggata, Grønlandsleiret, Brugata and Tjuvholmen in the Norwegian capital. If the samples, which could take two weeks to process, are good enough, officers will use the evidence to determine how many attackers were involved. They already suspect that three were committed by the same man, while the fourth is believed to have involved two men.

A fifth rape occurred early Tuesday morning, for which a suspect has already been arrested and re-released.

Fear in Oslo
The incidents have caused anxiety and concern among the city’s population. Retailers Clas Ohlson told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that they had sold out of personal defense sprays in their main central Oslo store in the aftermath of the weekend. Many people are also known to carry illegal pepper sprays.

Meanwhile, Oslo’s volunteer civilian patrol force, the ‘Night Ravens,’ promised to step up their presence in the affected areas in order to deter further rapes. The volunteers will make use of an extra patrol car and a greater number of volunteers on foot, focusing on parts of central Oslo that are poorly-lit and outside of the main thoroughfare. The organization’s leader in Oslo, Lars Norbom, promised NRK that he was “going to challenge our volunteers to make an extra effort this weekend.”

Oslo’s City Council has also drawn up new proposals to increase lighting in currently unsafe areas. By introducing energy-efficient technology across the capital at the same time, the council believes that it can install more lights at no extra cost. Nonetheless, the Labour Party’s lead candidate for the upcoming local elections had a more dramatic proposal to tackle the issue – Libe Rieber-Mohn told newspaper VG that all new asylum seekers should be psychologically tested to find possible rapists because “the vast majority of rapes are committed by men with backgrounds other than Norwegian.” In contrast, Ragnhild Bjørnebekk, a researcher at the Police College in Oslo, stressed that the presence of “personality disorders” was the key characteristic linking most rape perpetrators.

Tuesday morning suspect released
Oslo police force confirmed that a 47 year old man arrested in connection with a rape that occurred in the Sinsen area early Tuesday morning had been released. The suspect, who had earlier faced a number of charges for sexual crimes that were subsequently dropped, denies any involvement. The alleged crime took place between 03.30am and 03.45am as the woman walked home from a bus stop. The man was arrested after another bus passenger heard screams, arrived on the scene and later identified the suspect, who was arrested at home.

Superintendent Kari-Janne Lid told newspaper VG that her team “had not found sufficient grounds to remand the individual in custody,” and that he was not considered a risk for flight, repeat crimes or evidence tampering. Only on Tuesday, Lid told news agency NTB that she felt “reasonably sure” that they had arrested the right man. This particular incident is not being evaluated in connection to the other rapes that occurred on Saturday night.

In the long-term, a police project in the capital will deliver a report by July 2011 with new recommendations on how to reduce the number of rapes. The group will look to the southern Norwegian city of Stavanger for inspiration, where an intensive police programme saw the number of rapes and attempted rapes drop from 23 in 2009 to none in 2010.

Police thankful for record public tip-offs
Beyond the DNA evidence, Inspector Hanne Kristin Rohde, speaking to NTB, thanked members of the public for coming forward with information about the case, and promised to “look at each individual tip-off” they had received. The record amount of information received by the police does not yet illuminate the exact names of any potential suspects. From the tip-offs, VG reported that detectives had learned that all the women attacked on Saturday night were hit in the back before being raped. Police are also checking all security cameras in the area.

Relevant information can be called in to Oslo police on telephone number 22 66 90 50 between 8am and 4pm, and 22 66 99 66 after 4pm.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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