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Friday, June 21, 2024

Repeat offender finally faces justice

A British citizen who’s been carrying on a one-man crime wave in Oslo for the past 16 years may finally be punished. His roughly 750 violations of the law have brought new meaning to the term “repeat offender.”

It’s unclear what brought him to Norway in the first place, and his defense attorney hasn’t wanted to comment on the case. But 11 years ago, when he last appeared in a Norwegian court on burglary charges, he was set free because he was deemed psychotic. He was ruled to be too mentally ill to be imprisoned, but not ill enough to be committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Frustrated police
Newspaper Aften has followed his case for years, as he’s repeatedly been caught breaking into homes and businesses ever since, stealing mostly laptop computers and cash, but quickly being set free again. He became well-known among police and he would even brag to them, upon being captured, that they’d have to let him go. He didn’t even bother to disguise himself in front of security cameras, knowing he was unlikely to be jailed.

Last winter, he seemed to push his luck too far and was quickly branded “Norway’s stupidest thief” when he tried crawling through a cellar window during yet another break-in. He got stuck in the small window, winding up in the nearly comic situation of needing help from police and emergency personnel to be pried loose. He actually excused himself, his teeth chattering from the cold, when firefighters finally freed him.

His crime spree continued, though, even after he also got stuck in a freight elevator while burglarizing a textile firm in Oslo’s Grønland district.

Game may be over
Now, though, at the age of 42, his luck may have run out. New court-appointed psychiatrists declared, after yet another break-in last October, that he’s no longer psychotic and therefore can be held accountable for his actions. He has since been held in police custody, and his trial is due to begin next week.

He’s been formally indicted on 170 legal charges. “On the basis of the psychiatrists’ report, we’ve based the charges on him being healthy since December 2010,” prosecutor Vegard Rødås told Aften. “Therefore we’ve compiled the offenses involving him since that time. Now we’ll have a normal trial, with the court making the final determination.”

Rødås said the 42-year-old man has been cooperative and admitted to most of the charges against him. “The sheer scope of his crimes has reached an alarming level, and illustrates the problem around people viewed as mentally ill but not ill enough to be restrained on psychiatric grounds,” the prosecutor said.

Police told Aften they’ve seen a marked decline in break-ins since the man was arrested in October. “I’m sure many people are glad he’s finally been indicted,” said Lars Sevatdal, manager of the textile company that was broken into several times.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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