Teen admits to vandalizing church

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A 19-year-old Norwegian has admitted to vandalizing and burglarizing an historic church in Sør-Odal over the weekend. The motive remained unclear, but police found items from the church at the same address where they found him.

Oppstad Church in Sør-Odal was the target of "aggression and anger," said a local police chief after the church was found vandalized and plundered over the weekend. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Oppstad Church in Sør-Odal was the target of “aggression and anger,” said a local police chief after the church was found vandalized and plundered over the weekend. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Both he and a 17-year-old suspect were arrested and charged with not only smashing the windows of the Oppstad Church but also tearing out their wooden windowpanes. The church’s caretaker, Roar Fossmellem, said he was “shocked” by the sight that met him when he arrived at the church early Saturday morning: Church books had been thrown out the broken windows, there was more vandalism to the church interior, and the church silver was gone.

“It was just terrible, I don’t have words for it,” Fossmellem told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Tips from the public and a police investigation at the site led them to an address in the community along the Glomma River, just south of the large lake known as Storsjøen. There they found both young men, and both were charged.

“It’s incomprehensible that anyone could do this kind of damage to a church,” Hans Eivind Bjørnstad, acting chief of the police station in nearby Kongsvinger, told NRK. “This is a well-preserved, historic church from 1725.”

The church’s roots go much further back, to the 1200s when Norway was still Catholic. It was dedicated to St Hallvard, with the current timber building constructed in a cross formation 288 years ago. Its tower, however, is from an earlier version of the church built in 1624.

Police remained uncertain whether the 17-year-old actually participated in the vandalism and theft, and he was released after questioning because of his age. He remains charged, however, while the 19-year-old admitted to the crimes on Sunday.

He said he couldn’t remember details from Saturday night, with Bjørnstad telling NRK that “it’s quite clear the persons were under the influence,” although it was unclear whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

The damage was more than just the work of young drunks,” according to Bjørnstad, who claimed it was the result of “aggression and anger.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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