The botched investigation of the death of an eight-year-old girl near Bergen in 2011 has resulted in a fine of NOK 100,000 against the Hordaland Police District, after an internal affairs probe charged the Bergen police with grave dereliction of duty.
The Bergen police had determined that the little girl named Monika, found dead with a belt wrapped around her neck, had committed suicide. When the investigation was finally reopened after complaints from an internal whistleblower in Bergen, it was determined that she had in fact been murdered. Her mother’s former partner at the time has since been charged with the child’s murder and awaits trial.
“This is a bad day for the Hordaland Police District,” acting local police chief John Reidar Nilsen said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We are now focused on rebuilding public confidence in our daily work.”
Nilsen added that “there is no doubt that mistakes were made in the Monika case. We have not yet decided whether we will accept (or appeal) the fine. I understand that this case has been insulting for Monika’s mother.”
The most important thing, Nilsen stressed, is to “take steps to make sure this does not happen again.” It remained unclear whether individuals in charge of the poor police investigation would eventually face charges themselves. Nilsen also accepted criticism that whistleblower Robin Schaefer’s report on the botched investigation was not taken seriously.
“The report from Robin Schaefer was professional, serious and gave reason to doubt” the investigation that resulted with no charges being filed. “The way in which the police district handled the report was unsatisfactory,” Nilsen said. “It risked that a serious case was dropped for the wrong reasons.”
The death of Monika Sviglinskaja and the botched investigation into it has caused a public uproar in Bergen and also resulted in repeated calls for the resignation of Police Chief Geir Buemundsen. State Prosecutor Tor-Aksel Busch has been among those looking into the case as well, and he already had strongly criticized the work of the Bergen police.