Norwegian police are now investigating five murders in the week following the Christmas- and New Year holidays. That’s not many compared to most places, but shockingly high in a country where there were 33 murders in all of last year and that was the highest number in 10 years. Some think the murder wave may have been set off by the holidays themselves.
“It’s unusual that so many people lose their lives in such a short period of time,” Solveig Vatnar, a professor and psychologist, told state broadcaster NRK. The murders were accompanied by the alleged assailant committing suicide in at least two of the cases.
Vaatnar thinks it’s too early to tie the murders to the New Year, but the leader of Norway’s organization representing court psychiatrists thinks the holidays, especially Christmas, may have played a role. “People are forced to be together even when they don’t like one another,” Svein Øverland told NRK. “Alcohol is often tied to murders. Christmas can thus be a situation where there can be conflicts.”
Statistics also indicate that the most murders occur in January and October. Norway’s recent wave started with three people being found dead on New Year’s Day in Sørfold in Northern Norway, followed by two in Elverum on January 2. In both cases, police believe the assailants were among them.
A fourth murder was reported later on January 2, when a man was found dead in his home in Stavern. His partner was charged with his murder and has been reported missing, but now police suspect she may also have died and that the basis for the murder charges “has been weakened.” A massive search for the woman, a school teacher in her 40s, continues.
Another woman was found dead on the night of January 6 at the Fefor Høyfjellshotell in the mountains above Vinstra. She was an employee at the hotel, which had no guests at the time, and police have since charged another hotel employee with her murder. Both are foreign citizens and the man charged has acknowledged the facts presented by police but hadn’t confessed to murder as of Tuesday afternoon.
On January 7, the body of another woman in her 30s was found in the trunk of the burning ruins of a car at Blomøy in Øygarden, northwest of Bergen. She’s the mother of two children she had with the man who’s now charged with her murder, and newspaper BT reported that he has acknowledged criminal responsibility.
That leaves the rash of murders mostly involving partnerships and family relations, with women making up the majority of the victims. It’s nenewed debate over the need for better police protection and more issuance of alarms requested by those feeling threatened. Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said on NRK’s national nightly newscast that the government already plans to propose reforms aimed at making it easier to apply for and receive alarms that those threatened can carry.
The reforms may also make it easier for police to order those making threats to be strapped with so-called “reverse alarms” that would go off if they come close to the target of their threats.
“The last week’s murders show that the lack of follow-up by police can be fatal,” editorialized newspaper Klassekampen this week. “Many women who’ve been subjected to domestic violence live in real danger and must be better protected than they are today.”