UPDATED: A police officer in Telemark County fought efforts by his colleagues on Friday to jail him for at least four weeks while they investigate the death of a woman who either jumped, fell or was pushed off the Brevik Bridge earlier this month. Investigators suspect he’s responsible, and have charged him with murder.
A court in Tønsberg granted the prosecutor’s request on Friday and ordered that the police officer be held for four weeks, the first two in isolation. His communication and visitors will be restricted in the second two weeks, and he’ll have no access to media.
The case has been transferred from the Telemark district to the Vestfold Police District to avoid conflicts of interest. It has attracted national press attention because it’s highly unusual for a police officer to be a crime suspect, not least a murder suspect.
Friend of the family
The suspect has been described as a friend of the dead woman and her family who had been at a party at the home of the woman and her partner on the night she died. They left the party, along with her brother, but other guests have told police that they detected no unusual behaviour on the part of any of them.
Her body was found August 3 in the sea at Sandøya, not far from the bridge at Brevik in Telemark, with preliminary autopsy reports indicating she died from injuries suffered in a fall. The policeman was later questioned because he was among the last to be seen with her.
“We think he killed her by throwing her or pushing her off the Brevik Bridge between 3:40 and 4am,” prosecutor Lise Dalhaug of the Vestfold Police District told reporters on Thursday.
Police had secured photos of the two from surveillance cameras near the bridge just before they walked out on it. Police initially charged him with making false statements when first questioned in the case. He contends he’d hesitated to call police himself and report her death because she committed suicide by jumping off the bridge, and he panicked.
News bureau NTB reported that his involvement and arrest on Tuesday has shocked the woman’s family and friends but now they’re raising questions as to why he couldn’t have prevented any alleged suicide. They also can’t see any motive for suicide, contending that the 33-year-old woman was in good humour. Given his background as a police officer, they also question why he didn’t call for help right away.
The suspect’s defense attorney says his client is equally shocked and in despair, and denies the charges against him. “He stands by the statements he made, that he initially described the situation incorrectly because he panicked,” his lawyer, Arne Lie, told reporters.
Prosecutors wanted him held in custody for at least four weeks, to prevent any tampering of evidence while their investigation continues. Police also said Friday that they’ve had several responses to their calls for information from any witnesses who saw the two on the bridge.