Kidnapping, murder case highlights domestic violence in Norway

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A police investigation into the apparent abduction of a woman and her infant son in Telemark on Sunday ended Monday with the arrest of a man in Sweden and the discovery of the woman’s body in a forest outside Notodden. The man has admitted killing her, while the infant was physically unharmed and turned over to child welfare authorities.

The fatal drama is the latest extreme example of domestic violence in Norway, although this case involved foreign nationals. The man arrested in reportedly bloody clothes is a 46-year-old Swede, while the 26-year-old woman is a Russian citizen. So is the 11-month-old boy, who police said is their son.

‘Court didn’t take her case seriously enough’
The woman, who lived in Drammen, was the Swede’s former partner, and lawyer Sjak Haaheim said he had been her attorney during a child custody battle between the two. Haaheim told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that she feared him after he’d threatened her several times. “But the court didn’t think the case was serious enough,” Haaheim said, and she was not offered further legal assistance or protection.

On Sunday morning, she called police for help from an address in Bø in Telemark but the conversation was cut off. Witnesses reported that they then saw a car drive away from the address at a high rate of speed carrying the man, woman and the child. Witnesses also said the woman seemed to try to get in contact with them from the car.

Police immediately launched a kidnapping investigation. “After the call we got from her, we don’t think she got into the car voluntarily,” Jon Borgen of the Telemark Police District told NRK Sunday evening. They searched for the car, also with a helicopter, but feared the woman and child had been taken out of Norway. Border police were alerted, as were police in Sweden and Denmark.

Instead the man later confessed to killing her and told police where to find her body. He was arrested shortly after 3am near Växjö in south-central Sweden and will be extradited back to Norway for trial.

Norway tops lists for domestic violence
The weekend murder is the latest in a long string of cases involving extreme violence against women in Norway, a country otherwise widely known for championing gender equality. Media reports in recent years, including in VG as early as 2007, have nonetheless shown Norway topping lists in Europe for its frequency of partner abuse and murders of women committed by their partners or former partners. A film released this autumn, 90 minutter (90 minutes), highlights the problem and has been seen by thousands of Norwegians despite its violent scenes involving three separate men who attack their partners, their families and themselves.

Police and public authorities worry the problem of domestic violence is even worse than statistics show because they believe much of it goes unreported. A recent study suggested that more than half of the women in Norway and 20 percent of the men have experienced “unwanted sexual contact” including rape and other types of assaults, often involving people they know.

In one recent court case, however, the state was convicted for failing to protect a woman whose violent partner had ignored restraining orders and continued to harass and assault her in between prison terms. She finally charged the state with violating her human rights for failing to provide her with any sense of security, and she won at the appeals court level.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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