Justice Minister Anders Anundsen hopes a new police unit being set up to relaunch investigations of old unsolved crimes will help prevent what many consider a travesty of justice in the case of an eight-year-old girl named Monika. Her death in western Norway three years ago was ruled a suicide and police dropped their investigation after nine months, only to end up charging her former stepfather with murder this week.
The charges have sparked a public outcry because they’re seen as being long overdue. Police in Hordaland County are now apologizing for what many consider a badly botched investigation at the time. It’s now under investigation itself, by both the state police internal affairs unit and Riksadvokaten, the country’s national Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
Anundsen has also said that what’s now being called “the Monika case” is “hard to live with,” and politicians from other parties in Parliament agree. Systematic failure and sheer incompetence, they claim, contributed to the failure of police to pursue murder charges, and the case “must be followed up so such things don’t happen again,” said Member of Parliament Jan Arild Ellingsen, also from Anundsen’s own conservative Progress Party.
Monika’s case left both family, friends and acquaintances of the little girl feeling like they hadn’t been believed or taken seriously. Many couldn’t believe themselves that the eight-year-old would have wrapped a man’s belt around her neck and choke herself to death, as police did before dropping their investigation and ruling her case as a suicide. DNA has now tied the former stepfather to the murder and he is in custody pending trial.
State Police Director Odd Reidar Humlegård, also disturbed by the Monika case, called it “an opportunity to take this action now,” referring to the so-called “cold-case unit” now being established by the state crime investigation agency Kripos that he oversees. A dedicated group of experienced investigators will now pick up investigations of serious unsolved crimes such as rape, murder or disappearances around the country.
“It’s important that this be a completely independent cold-case group that can examine cases with new eyes, new investigative methods and in a new manner,” Anundsen said, calling Humlegård’s initiative “a good step in the right direction.”
He noted that the Parliament recently removed statutes of limitations on serious crimes involving violence. “It’s important to send out a signal that we will take these old cases with an entirely new degree of seriousness than we have previously,” Anundsen said. Members of Parliament are also calling for special attention to be paid on cases involving children.