Police in the northern Norwegian city of Tromsø reported Wednesday that a male employee of a local day care center is now charged with sexually abusing 11 children and they fear more young victims may be involved. The Norwegian man charged in the case has admitted guilt in several of the alleged assaults.
Police were still working to determine whether other children have been abused over the years. The defendant, in his 30s, worked at the day care center for eight years and also coached football in the city.
‘Largest’ case ever
“We absolutely aren’t ruling out that this case may involve even more children,” Police Sergeant Yngve Myrvoll told reporters at a press conference Wednesday morning. Local state child welfare officials called the case the “largest and most serious” they’d ever encountered.
The man was in custody and appeared to be cooperating with police as the investigation continued. He has admitted to several sexual assaults against both young boys and girls. He otherwise had no police record, but police believe the assaults took place over a period of several years.
“When it comes to the degree of seriousness regarding the assaults, the mildest charges are that he took photos of children in sexual positions,” Myrvoll said. It was unclear, he added, whether the man had spread the photos further.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety related to this case, both among those who have children at the day care center now and those who have had children there earlier,” said Ståle Luther, head of Statens barnehus, the state agency that deals with abuse cases. “This is also a very tough situation for the others who work at there.” The day care center itself was not initially identified but is not publicly owned. Its management was being represented by the national trade association for privately owned day care centers, known as barnehager.
Tipped by parents
The man was initially charged earlier this month after police received a tip from parents of a child at the center that prompted them to arrest him the same day. He admitted guilt in that initial case of sexual assault, but then the case expanded dramatically.
He’s charged under various portions of Norwegian law including six cases of repeated assaults against children under the age of 10. He faces 21 years in prison on those charges, while other charges involve sexually offensive behaviour involving children.
Police in Tromsø faced a massive continued investigation, which involves more difficult questioning of known and potential victims, and they had called for assistance from state police and other police districts.