A 38-year-old man from Sunnmøre with a history of psychiatric problems continued to deny in court on Monday that he had anything to do with the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Sigrid Giskegjerde Schjetne late last summer. Her disappearance set off one of the largest searches in Norwegian history, involving record-high public participation.
The 38-year-old’s trial began in an Oslo city court Monday morning, with the defendant answering “no” when asked whether he committed the acts of kidnapping and killing Schjetne as described in his indictment.
Prosecutors don’t, however, believe he’s mentally competent to be criminally liable for his alleged actions, and want him committed to mandatory psychiatric treatment instead of jail. He has nonetheless been held in custody at the new Halden Prison south of Oslo while awaiting trial, and claims himself that he’s able to stand trial. He disagrees that he has any psychiatric problems.
Schjetne disappeared while walking home from a girlfriend’s house in the Østensjo district of Oslo on the night of August 4, 2012. Her body was found wrapped in blankets and plastic in a forested area about 15 kilometers south of where she’d been walking a month later.
Criminal investigators have found traces of Schjetne’s blood in a camping van that the suspect used and her body was found close to a building at Kolbotn where he and a companion often worked on cars. The defendant is charged with kidnapping Schjetne, holding her prisoner in the camping van, beating her and ultimately killing her.
Police believe she was a random victim and many questions remain unanswered. “The family hopes, in the course of the trial, to get some answers as to why she was kidnapped, how she was handled, how much time passed before she was killed and how that happened,” Harald Stabell, attorney for Schjetne’s family, told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend.
One theory widely reported in Norwegian media holds that the defendant was speeding in the area where Schjetne was walking home and accidentally hit her. He then may have panicked and took her with him. The suspect’s defense attorney, John Christian Elden, said his client denies all the charges against him and suggests the police have no evidence that he killed Schjetne.
Schjetne’s parents will be following the trial. Her father was the first to testify when the trial got underway in a case that’s been likened to “all parents’ worst nightmare.” He told the court that his daughter should have been home within a half-hour after midnight, and he sat up and waited for her. When she didn’t arrive, he sent a message to her mobile phone that was never returned. Then he called the girlfriend she’d been visiting, who confirmed Schjetne had left her home around midnight. By 1am, her father went looking for her in the neighbourhood, before calling police.
The trial is due to last three weeks.