Police in Romerike arrested the owner of a Volvo on Wednesday evening, wanted in connection to the abduction of two Chechen girls on Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, police said they’ve received witness reports that the sisters had been taken out of Norway.
Police had been searching for a Volvo XC90, observed nearby when six-year-old Rajana and eight-year-old Samaja were grabbed by two masked men between Kongsvinger and Austmarka on Tuesday afternoon. The girls’ Russian father was charged with deprivation of liberty, while their mother, a Norwegian citizen of Chechen origin, was charged with complicity. She denied any knowledge of the abduction.
“The car was stopped at Fjellhamar,” said the police in a statement. “During the day the car will be investigated by our correctional technicians.” Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported the owner, a man in his 30s, was arrested. He denied any knowledge of the abduction, and police planned to question him further on Thursday.
Police had interviewed around 30 people by Thursday, and were following up about 50 tips. “That goes on observations of possible perpetrators and possible observations of the girls on the way out of Norway,” said Hedmark police prosecutor Iren Johnsen Dahl. Interpol, Swedish police, airports and harbour authorities have all been asked to keep a look out for the girls and their father.
The former head of the Norwegian branch of Interpol, Helge Tangen, feared the sisters had already left Norway because it was so easy to drive across the country’s borders. He said it may become an international operation. “You have previously seen many get caught through the Schengen system, and that they are caught at the edge of this area. If not, it’s Interpol that applies, in that they operate globally.” Sweden and Finland are in the Schengen zone, but Russia is not a member.
A case over the sisters’ ongoing placement with a foster family was due to be considered this week. It emerged on Thursday that child welfare authorities had asked in December for the girls to be housed at a secret address, but county board rejected the request on the grounds it was unjustified, and the girls’ parents still had caring responsibilities.