The head of Norway’s state police directorate, Benedicte Bjørnland, issued a formal apology on Monday for wrongfully charging the cousin of young murder victim Birgitte Tengs with her death 27 years ago. The apology came right after state prosecutors indicted another man in the long-running Tengs murder case, based on new DNA technology.
“On behalf of the police I want to apologize to the cousin, his family and the family of the victim,” Bjørnland stated. “The murder of Birgitte Tengs is a deeply serious case that has made an impression on many. When prosecutors now report that they’ve issued an indictment against a 52-year-old man, it’s a step closer towards a long-awaited conclusion in the case.
“There is not doubt that the case has taken a considerable toll.”
Bjørnland wasn’t the only one apologizing within hours of the indictment being handed down. The former leader of the investigation into the 17-year-old Tengs’ assault and murder on the island of Karmøy in 1995, Ståle Finsal, also is apologizing for the first time, admitting in a new podcast series that the arrest of Tengs’ cousin was “a catastrophic mistake.”
State prosecutors further expressed regret on Monday over how Tengs’ cousin was charged, convicted and later cleared, but not of a court order to pay compensation to Tengs’ parents. The case has torn apart a family on Karmøy and the initial conviction hasn’t formally been lifted since it’s exceeded Norway’s statute of limitations.
The cousin later moved abroad. His father described the past decades as “pure hell” on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s nightly national newscast Dagsrevy on Monday. A major compensation claim looms.
The man now indicted for Tengs’ assault and murder, meanwhile, continues to plead innocence even though his DNA now has been found on the stockings Tengs was wearing the night she disappeared. His murder trial will begin in early November, the result of a “cold case” revival in 2016.
It’s the latest alleged travesty of justice in Norway, otherwise viewed as having an extremely strong legal and court system. Another looms in the so-called “Baneheia case,” in which two young girls were found raped and murdered in the recreational area known as Baneheia in Kristiansand. Two young men were arrested, charged and convicted, one of them recently released after serving a lengthy prison term, although new evidence suggests only the other young man was involved. Yet another compensation case looms.