Is Anne-Elisabeth Hagen dead or alive? Her family’s hopes for the latter reportedly have risen, following new contact with Hagen’s alleged captors, but police still think a kidnapping last October was rigged to hide her murder, and that there’s “little probability” she’s still alive.
The different positions were made clear on Tuesday, when police and a lawyer for the Hagen family held separate press conferences. Their assessments of the situation, 280 days since Hagen disappeared from the family’s home in Lørenskog, are in sharp contrast.
Stein Holden, the former public prosecutor who’s now in private practice and working for the Hagen family, conducted his carefully worded meeting with reporters first, at noon. He didn’t reveal much, but said the family finally had been contacted by what Holden called their “counterpart” on July 8. It took place via a new but unspecified communications platform, different from a highly technical encrypted platform used earlier.
Holden said the contact was a “clear response” to an also unspecified message that “we sent to the counterpart at the end of May.” He also claims “motparten (the counterpart) gave them the “clear message” that Anne-Elisabeth Hagen was alive. Holden had to concede, however, that “we have not received proof” that she’s alive.
He refused to confirm or deny a recent report in newspaper VG that the Hagen family has since paid the equivalent of more than NOK 10 million (USD 1.1 million) in euros to an account police have not been able to track down. The family reportedly has since sent several messages to their counterpart demanding proof that Hagen, age 68, is alive. None has come.
Holden also said the communication with their alleged counterpart took place in Norwegian, but he couldn’t conclude whether Hagen’s alleged captors are Norwegian. Despite the lack of proof, Holden stated repeatedly that the family’s hopes had risen considerably.
“It would surprise me if the police now rule out that Hagen can be alive,” he said.
At a follow-up conference two hours later, police seemed intent on being respectful towards the family. Inspector Tommy Brøske didn’t waste any time, however, in stating that “we still think there is little probability Anne-Elisabeth Hagen is alive.” Brøske wouldn’t rule it out but stressed that police have not changed their main hypothesis, that Hagen was murdered and a kidnapping rigged to fool police. Even though her family is clinging to hopes she’s alive, Brøske stressed the lack of evidence of that.
He wouldn’t say whether police have identified any murder suspects. Police were not involved in the contact Hagen’s family had with the alleged captors, but were informed of it “a short time after” it occurred on July 8. At this point, the police have taken on a role as advisers to the family. The police are not involved in any negotiations between the family and Hagen’s alleged kidnappers.
“Until we have complete and relevant evidence (that Hagen is alive), we view it as probable that this is a murder case ,” Brøske told reporters. Hagen’s husband, Tom Hagen, is one of Norway’s wealthiest men and has refused to meet with reporters himself, preferring that all communication go through Holden.