Two women working for Norwegian state welfare agency NAV in Bergen were stabbed by a NAV client on Monday. One later died of her wounds, while the other remains hospitalized.
Government minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen called the attacks “deeply tragic,” and sought an evaluation of employee security at NAV offices all over the country. It’s not the first time disturbed clients attack NAV workers, sometimes with fatal consequences. NAV workers are also subject to threats from NAV clients dissatisfied with the service or financial assistance they receive.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that both NAV employees were rushed to Bergen’s Haukeland University Hospital. The woman who died of stab wounds was in her 50s, while the other woman, in her mid-30s, suffered less serious injuries.
Heavily armed police arrived quickly at the scene of the stabbing at the NAV Årstad office at Danmarks Plass in Bergen. The assailant, a man in his 30s, was reported to have wandered around the offices after stabbing the women and terrifying other NAV employees.
He was quickly arrested at the scene and charged with both murder and assault. Police later ransacked his home in Bergen and he was due for a custody hearing on Tuesday.
“Our investigation will clarify what happened and why,” Police Inspector Morten Ørn told reporters at a press conference Monday afternoon. “There are many questions I can’t answer right now.”
The assailant was uninjured himself and faced questioning Monday afternoon. It remained unclear whether he had any ties to either of the women he attacked. Their colleagues were receiving help from a crisis team and health care personnel.
The same office was attacked in 2012 by a man who threatened to shoot everyone working for NAV, which is in charge of dispersing social welfare services and payments to Norwegian citizens. Such services span a range from pension payments to unemployment and disability benefits and so-called dagpenger, money for those without any other source of income. Many NAV clients are deeply troubled.
“Our thoughts go to the families (of those attacked) and their colleagues,” Isaksen said Monday afternoon. “It’s incomprehensible to lose someone so brutally and unexpectedly.” He said the safety of NAV employees is important: “Police will need to conduct their investigation, but it’s natural to take this up within NAV and see whether there’s anything that must or should be done better.”
NAV Director Hans Christian Holte also called the attacks “deeply tragic,” adding that “the most important thing now is to take care” of those involved, their families, colleagues and everyone else who was at the NAV office when this happened.”