UPDATED: Police in Ålesund announced Wednesday evening that they’d arrested a man in his early 20s and charged him with the murder of 21-year-old Anja Weløy Aarseth. The suspect, a resident of the west coast city with a police record of violent assaults, later confessed to attacking Aarseth, claiming he was high on drugs, and the police expanded their charges to include sexual assault.
The 23-year-old man who was born and reared in Norway claims he can’t be held responsible for his actions and his defense attorney was calling the murder “tragic for all involved.” Aarseth’s body was found over the weekend after she’d disappeared while jogging last Wednesday in the popular Akslafjellet recreational area adjacent to the city center. Police now believe her assailant knocked her down and strangled her in a random assault.
Record of abuse
He was convicted just last fall after having threatened a woman he’d worked and lived with and after threatening to kill her son, a police officer and his family. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that he was also under the influence at the time and he was sentenced to just 90 days in prison, after the judge took his relatively young age into consideration.
Now he’s confessed to murder and also is charged with attempting to rob a nearby kiosk on the same evening as well, threatening the kiosk’s employee with a pistol. He faces charges as well of assaulting his former live-in partner with whom he has a child. He most recently has been listed as having no registered address and living off welfare benefits.
Yngve Skovly, a prosecutor for the Sunnmøre Police District, said that a DNA match led to the arrest of the suspect, which they said occurred “without any drama.” Skovly told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the suspect is a Norwegian citizen and was seized in the outlying district of Skarbøvik in Ålesund.
Oddbjørn Solheim of the Ålesund Police said they had been in contact with Aarseth’s family and that they’d expressed “an enormous sense of relief” that a suspect in her murder was under arrest. Solheim also said the police were grateful for the assistance of state crime unit Kripos and the public health institute for their assistance in making the DNA match between evidence found at the murder site and police records.
The murder has shocked the city of Ålesund, not least since it occurred before dark in a popular recreational area not far from one of the city’s most historic and well-known cafés, Fjellstua. The area is frequented by locals and tourists alike.
More than 50 investigators had been working on the case since Aarseth’s body was found early on Saturday afternoon. Police have said she was killed after she’d parked the car she’d borrowed from her grandmother near the Fagerlia children’s day care center and gone jogging last Wednesday evening.
She never returned and a search was launched the next day after her family reported her missing. She was a student at the local college in Ålesund, and police believe she was a random victim.