‘Almost unheard of’

Alleged murder of 20-year-old at hands of fishermen causes national furor in Iceland

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The discovery of the body of 20-year-old sales assistant Birna Brjansdottir on a beach southeast of Reykjavik has shaken the people of Iceland, a country in which only two people on average are murdered each year. Brjansdottir had been missing for more than a week after last being spotted on a surveillance video camera walking unsteadily by herself down a deserted street at 5 A.M. According to her mother, the young woman went out to a bar crawl in downtown Reykjavik but never returned.

Police later discovered Brjansdottir’s Doc Martens on a dock in Hafnarfjordur, a small town on the outskirts of Reykjavik. After examining video of the scene, police identified a fishing trawler from Greenland, the Polar Nanoq, moored nearby and a small red Kia parked closely adjacent. That same car, it turned out, had also been visible in the surveillance video of Brjansdottir stumbling down the streets of Reyjkavik. The Kia, police found, had been rented by two men from the trawler.

Unfortunately for police, the trawler had left Iceland for Greenland days before the discovery. Using a helicopter with a squad of six Special Forces officers known as the Viking Swat Team, the Icelandic Coast Guard managed to intercept the vessel and arrest the two suspected fisherman. According to Helgi Gunnlaugsson, a sociology professor at the University of Iceland, the case was complicated still further by the fact that it was Greenlanders who allegedly carried out the killing.

“Most murder cases in Iceland are not mysteries — the victims and their killers usually know each other, the murderer rarely seeks to cover up the crime, and cases are usually solved quickly,” said Gunnlaugsson. “Foreign involvement is almost unheard-of. The reaction would be different if the suspects would’ve been two Icelandic boys.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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