Police and prosecutors in Western Norway faced tough criticism this week, after an appeals court acquitted the latest suspect in the murder of 17-year-old Birgitte Tengs on Karmøy in 1995. He’d been convicted and sentenced to a lengthy jail term in the local court, but was freed by the appeals court for lack of convincing DNA evidence.
The surprise ruling means that “we still don’t know who killed Birgitte Tengs, 28 years later,” wrote commentator Inge D Hanssen in newspaper Aftenposten. He added that he’d never seen a court verdict that so strongly criticized police and prosecutors, who even were accused of speculation.
The 53-year-old defendant, who fainted when initially convicted, broke into tears of joy when the verdict was read, and his defense lawyers intend to seek compensation for him. His DNA had been found on Tengs’ tights after her body was found, but so was the DNA of others. Prosecutors were also accused of trying to confirm their own theory, instead of challenging it as they should.
Prosecutors objected to the criticism, claimed they’d conducted “thorough evaluations” and were considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the long-suffering parents of Birgitte Tengs are once again left without answers or any sense of closure in their daughter’s murder, years after one of her own cousins had been falsely accused and ended up leaving the country after the travesty of justice. Hanssen characterized the Tengs’ case as a scandal.