High court allows suspect’s release

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UPDATED: The drama around billionaire murder suspect Tom Hagen rose yet again on Friday, when Norway’s Supreme Court allowed his release from police custody. Police, meanwhile, arrested a second suspect earlier in the day and also charged him with the murder or contributing to the murder of Hagen’s missing wife Anne-Elisabeth Hagen.

The dramatic arrest last Tuesday of billionaire Tom Hagen has sparked massive media coverage, like here on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). PHOTO: NRK screen grab

The 70-year-old Tom Hagen remains charged in the case and had been ordered held in custody by a lower court last week. He appealed the custody order, however, and the appeals court ruled in his favour on Thursday.

Prosecutors immediately appealed that reversal to the Supreme Court (Høyesterett), but their appeal was rejected, clearing the way for Hagen to be set free while a police investigation continues.

The appeals court, called the Eidsivating lagmannsrett, did not consider the evidence collected against Hagen strong enough to warrant holding him in jail for at least another three weeks. He was ordered held in custody last week, and was held in isolation, on charges that he murdered his wife of nearly 50 years, Anne-Elisabeth Hagen, and then made it look like a kidnapping.

Suspects deny all charges
Hagen, known as a tough and successful businessman, has denied all guilt in the case and claims he had nothing to with his wife’s disappearance on October 31, 2018. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that a majority of judges on the appeals court disagreed with the lower court (Nedre Romerike tingrett) that evidence against Hagen was compelling enough that there’d be more than a 50 percent chance of conviction.

The lower court, meanwhile, did find sufficient evidence that Hagen’s release could lead to tampering with evidence and that his wife had been taken from their home in some manner. Hagen continues to maintain his innocence. The couple’s grown children have also later claimed that they don’t think their father killed their mother, but have otherwise avoided the press.

Newspaper VG reported Friday morning that police have now arrested a second suspect in the case. Police later described the new suspect as a 30-year-old man “with a relation to Tom Hagen.” Police also wrote in a press release that they were “aware” of the new suspect’s “competence” within information technology (IT)  and crypto currency. Both played a central role in the initial alleged kidnapping of Anne-Elisabeth Hagen, not least after ransom demands were made in crypto currency over a complicated digital platform.

Investigation proceeds
Both Tom Hagen’s defense attorney and family have stressed his lack of digital competence, and questioned how he could have master-minded an abduction involving it. Police, however, believe Hagen planned his wife’s murder over a lengthy period and then tried to cover it up through a staged kidnapping.

Police have been back at the couple’s home in Lørenskog every day since Hagen’s dramatic arrest while on his way to work. NRK reported earlier on Thursday that experts from the state police agency Kripos have been making 3D scans of the property, while an abandoned sewage system has been examined and Hagen’s office and hytte have been ransacked and examined as well.

VG reported that Friday’s new arrest was made at an address in Oslo, while civilian-clad police raided another concrete address outside of Oslo. The new suspect has denied any guilt and called his arrest “absurd.”

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Thursday that new video evidence shows a car backing into a pedestrian walkway running along the back of the Hagens’ home on the morning of Anne-Elisabeth Hagen’s disappearance. The source of the video is unclear, but it reportedly is important in the ongoing investigation.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund