Police in Hordaland, western Norway, had an 18-year-old man in custody on Wednesday, charged with the murder of 98-year-old Hilda Feste in her apartment at a care facility on New Year’s Day. Feste was sexually assaulted and badly beaten.
The arrest of the local teenager, who has no previous criminal record apart from some minor traffic violations, was met with both relief and shock in the small community of Os, south of Bergen. “This has been a very tough time, especially for Feste’s family and those who were closely involved in the case,” Vice-Mayor Marie Elisabeth Lunde Bruraøy told newspaper Bergens Tidende (BT), referring to Feste’s elderly neighbours and the care workers who found Feste’s body.
Neighbours shaken by the attack that police have described as both “brutal” and “extremely unusual” also expressed relief. “I just hope they (police) have got the right man,” one neighbour, Kristoffer Moberg, told BT.
Asbjørn Onarheim of the Bergen police said the arrest was made on the basis of an intense police investigation over recent weeks and “technical evidence” that’s believed to be DNA, although Onarheim wouldn’t elaborate. Police already had reported collection of DNA evidence at the murder scene and could establish a DNA profile of her assailant.
Two men arrested shortly after the murder were quickly released. Onarheim said the 18-year-old arrested at his home in Os Tuesday night had submitted both finger prints and DNA samples when he’d been questioned along with others in an earlier phase of the investigation. Onarheim wouldn’t reveal more details.
Suspect ‘suffered a blackout’
The suspect’s defense attorney, Rolf Knudsen, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that his client couldn’t understand why he’d been arrested and claims he has no memory of the night Feste was assaulted and killed. He claims he’d been drinking heavily on the night of the murder. Others have told newspaper Bergensavisen that they saw him in town that evening, highly intoxicated.
Knudsen told NRK his client suffered what he called a “blackout,” is shocked by his arrest but wants to help police “and contribute what he can.”
The investigation of Feste’s murder was earlier linked to the sexual assaults and robberies of other elderly women in the Oslo area in recent months. A 77-year-old woman was attacked while walking home in the Korsvoll district last month and Oslo police have said they can’t rule out the possibility that they’re tracking a serial rapist.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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