The mysterious murder of a well-liked, 52-year-old father who was on his way home from work late Friday night was the 38th homicide in Norway so far this year, and has set off some debate among criminologists. Researcher Vibeke Ottesen claims murder remains seldom in Norway and that Norway is still a safe country, even though this year’s murder rate is running well ahead of last year’s.
The latest case occurred in a quiet, residential neighbourhood at Manglerud on Oslo’s east side. The victim was found sprawled in a street that runs through the villa district where he lived by a taxi driver who alerted police.
Possible random victim
The man was still alive and was rushed to Ullevål University Hospital, where he died shortly after arrival. He had suffered massive head injuries that caused police to immediately launch a murder investigation.
Newspaper Dagbladet reported that police believe the man was a random victim in a conflict to which he was not directly connected. He was a respected member of the Norwegian-Pakistani community with no criminal record, but he could have been inadvertently tied to what Dagbladet called a “spiral of violence” and threatening confrontations in recent weeks that involve other men with criminal convictions.
Police wouldn’t comment, nor on another theory that his assailants had the residential street under surveillance Friday night with a target in mind, but lashed out at the 52-year-old instead.
Large percentage increase, but still few murders
While the investigation into the murder continued on Monday, researchers note that his death is the 38th murder in Norway so far this year, compared to 31 in all of last year. Ottesen, now working on her doctorate in criminology, thinks it’s purely coincidental and not a sign that Norway is becoming a more dangerous place.
“Because we have so few murders in Norway, a few more or less in any given year can be viewed as a dramatic increase or decline,” Ottesen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday. Even though she stresses that any murder is “gruesome,” Norwegians shouldn’t be too worried when the actual number of murders rises, Ottesen said.
Ragnhild Bjørnebekk, another researcher at the state police academy in Oslo (Norges Politihøgskolen), disagrees. “I say that we should worry when there’s an increase, and such concern means we’ll pay more attention to things that happen around us,” Bjørnebekk told NRK. She agrees, however, that there’s no reason “to go around” feeling scared.
“Norway is not an unsafe country to live in,” Bjørnebekk said. “We have had a slight increase than can seem large in percentage terms, but it’s small in terms of the number of persons.”