Norway’s Criminal Cases Review Commission has decided to reopen the country’s sensational Baneheia case, in which two young girls were found raped and murdered near a popular lake at Baneheia in Kristiansand 0n May 19, 2000. One of the two young men still in prison has insisted all along that he’s innocent.
The now 41-year-old convict Viggo Kristiansen has tried on six earlier occasions to get the case reopened. He succeeded on his seventh attempt, with a split commission that acts independently voting by a narrow margin to suggest that a new trial be held in a new court.
Kristiansen was arrested, tried and convicted, along with his alleged accomplice Jan Helge Andersen, of raping and murdering eight-year-old Stine Sofie Sørstrønen and her best friend, 10-year-old Lena Sløgedal Paulsen when they went swimming at Baneheia. A massive search was launched when they failed to return home. Their bodies were found well-hidden in the surrounding forest two days later.
Andersen, who admitted to the crime and said he and Kristiansen had killed one girl each, was sentenced to 19 years in prison and has since been released. Kristiansen pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Prosecutors claimed they had found the DNA of two men, one of them Jan Helge Andersen.
The other DNA couldn’t be tied to Kristiansen and the commission ruled that’s the most important reason to reopen the case. Some old mobile telephone evidence has also been presented indicating that Kristiansen wasn’t in the Baneheia area at the time of the murders, or at least his phone wasn’t. Kristiansen’s defense attorney claims Andersen lied about the murders in order to gain earlier parole and put the blame on Kristiansen.
It remains up to the state prosecutor’s office to actually reopen the case. The parents of the girls declined comment Thursday beyond issuing a statement that they “have confidence the justice system handles all criminal cases in a good and fair manner.” They asked journalists not to call for further comment.