Empty Jails And Unlocked Doors – The Myth Of the Crime-Free Paradise

Iceland witnessed four murders in total in 2017 – one of them the harrowing murder of 20-year-old Birna Brjánsdóttir. Birna’s murder shook Icelanders to the core, a deep blow to the nation’s psyche that somehow felt like an attack on the nation as a whole. A fisherman from Greenland named Thomas Møller Olsen was sentenced to 19 years in prison for Birna’s murder, the heaviest sentence given in 23 years. But the event was still disquieting to many – how could this be happening in Iceland? How did we let this happen?

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Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Cold Case Re-Opened?

The police in the Reykjavík metropolitan area are now assessing whether to re-open the investigation into the disappearance of Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson, Vísir reports. The pair disappeared nearly half a century ago but a number of new clues have come to light in recent years. These new clues might make it feasible to re-open the investigation. Guðmundur and Geirfinnur were never found, but six people were convicted of their alleged murders based on confessions extracted by police by intense and lengthy interrogations which included torture and solitary confinement. The sentences were passed despite a lack of of bodies, witnesses, or any forensic evidence. Five of the six originally sentenced were acquitted on the 27th of September, 2018, 44 years after Guðmundur’s and Geirfinnur’s disappearance.

“We are assessing our options and looking into how we might go about it. It’s now explicit that the case isn’t fully solved”, Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, head of police of the Reykjavík metropolitan police, stated. Sigríður says that the police have to assess the new data that has come forward in the case, and if they give a reason for a special investigation. It is the norm to only open closed cases when new data has been presented.

Sigríður stated the police was not involved in the recently completed re-trial of the case of five of the six who were sentenced for Guðmundur’s and Geirfinnur’s appearance. Read more about the re-trial, and the following aquittal, here.

Read more about the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case here.

New leads on Geirfinnur

A man presented himself to the police at the end of 2016 and stated that he saw three men dressed in civilian clothing arriving on a small boat to Vestmannaeyjar on the 20th of November, 1974. This was the day after Geirfinnur Einarsson disappeared in Keflavík. Two of the men led the third between them appeared weak, and almost without consciousness. They arrived into the fish processing plant which the eyewitness was situated and stayed there for some time with the company chef’s permission.

The weak man in the middle was to have said “Remember me” when they got ready to return to the boat. The eyewitness then saw them head to the boat and out to sea. A while later they returned to shore but only two people left the boat. The witness did not see the two men again until two decades later, when he saw one of them in East Iceland working on electricity lines for Landsvirkjun.

A report was also taken of the eyewitness’ ex-girlfriend who was with him in Vestmannaeyjar. She did not see the three men, but she received a phone call two days later where she and the witnessed were threatened with execution. They feared the threat and therefore said nothing until now.

New leads on Guðmundur

Stefán Almarsson, who is believed to have lied to the police that Kristján Viðar Leifsson and Sævar Cieselski played a part in Guðmundur’s disappearance, was interrogated by police in 2015. The interrogation took place due to testimony by Stefán’s ex-girlfriend, where she stated that she was a passenger in a car controlled by Stefán which struck Guðmundur Einarsson on the night before 27th of January 1974. According to her testimony, Guðmundur was taken into the car before she was driven home. Guðmundur was getting visibly worse for wear when she left the car.

Þórður Eyþórsson was also interrogated, as the woman stated he was among the passengers in the car. Both Stefán and Þórður steadfastly deny playing any part in Guðmundur’s disappearance.

A report of Stefán, from 1977, exists about his goings on the night before 27th of January 1974. There he states he was partying with his friend in Reykjavík. In the interrogation, this friend neither confirmed nor denied being with Stefán that night, but admitted that he knew Guðmundur from his primary school years. That man is the older brother of Þórður Eyþórsson and is said to have been a greater friend of Stefán than Þórður, who was 16 years old when Guðmundur’s disappearance took place.

In the spotlight

The case is well known outside Iceland. ‘Out of Thin Air’, a documentary covering the events of the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case was released by Netflix in 2017. Directed by Dylan Howitt, the film covers the events of the murders and was inspired by the BBC programme ‘The Reykjavík Confessions’, which was released in 2014.

Hafnartorg Area Nearing Completion

Construction in the Hafnartorg area is nearing completion, Rúv reports. Situated between Lækjartorg square and Harpa concert hall, the Hafnartorg area will play host to a number of retail spaces as well as apartments. Hafnartorg has been named as Harbour Square in English. It will feature restaurants, apartments, shops and office spaces.

The cost of construction is estimated at near ISK 13 billion ($115 million/ € 100 m). Most of the retail space, along with office space, has been rented out already. Eight apartments in the buildings have been sold at this point in time. The average price per square meter is ISK 900,000 ($8,000 / € 6,960) (price per square foot is ISK 83,612 ($744 / €646)). “We’ve already sold eight apartments, which is about 20% of the total which went into sale. So it’s started better than we dared to hope. The apartments are from ISK 60 million ($543,000 / €464,000) to the penthouse apartments which cost ISK 258 million ($2.3 million / €1.9 million)”, Davíð Már Sigurðsson, sales and marketing director of contractor ÞG Verk commented.

The first shops will open up in two weeks time, while the first residents are expected to move in at the beginning of December. There are 76 luxury apartments in total, 40 of which went into sale 10 days ago. H&M along with H&M Home will open up on the 12th of October, while a special emphasis will be place on luxury shops. “There will be space for restaurants where we’ll create a pier atmosphere along the shoreline with restaurants in amongst retail stores. The area in its entirety will be a huge lifting stick for downtown Reykjavík and retail in Iceland at whole as well. No question.”, Tinna Jóhannsdóttir, marketing director of the real estate company Reginn stated. Reginn has bought out all of the restaurant and service spaces in the Hafnartorg area.

There are seven buildings in the area, comprising together of close to 23,000 square meters.

For further information, head to www.tgverk.is/hafnartorg.

Apparent Arson at Elementary School

Laugalækjarskóli elementary school was set on fire last night, RÚV reports The Fire Department finished their operations around 4 AM this morning but all available staff were called to fight the fire after 1 AM. The fire was behind a paneling in a connective structure in the building and spread upwards and into the roof of the building.

Fire chief Finnur Hilmarsson, states that it’s pretty certain the fire was caused by arson. “it’s outside and there’s nothing that can cause a fire in this location at this hour besides arson,” Finnur told RÚV. The case is being investigated by the police.

The school office told RÚV that the fire would not cause classes to be cancelled. Most of the damage was in a new part of the school building that houses the offices of teachers and other staff. School staff was shaken by the news.

Rental Cars on Summer Tyres Cause Traffic Delays

Cars trapped on the road

Several drivers ran into trouble yesterday in East and Northeast Iceland due to snow and icy roads. Traffic was slow and many drivers of rental cars ran into problems since their cars were equipped with summer tyres that couldn’t handle the difficult driving conditions.

Yesterday, travelling conditions were getting worse and roads through Víkurskarð pass and Öxi were closed. Roads in Northeast Iceland were icy and it snowed in several parts of the area. Search-and-Rescue teams Vopni and Jökull in East Iceland aided tourists yesterday when they couldn’t get any farther on an icy road, mbl.is reports. Their rental car was equipped with summer tyres.

Ill-prepared cars also stopped traffic on route 1 by Vopnafjörður yesterday evening. Some drivers had difficulty getting their cars up a hill where traffic stopped. According to Vilhjálmur Vernharðsson, most of the drivers who had trouble were driving cars equipped with summer tyres. He is a service agent for The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration and spent hours yesterday digging out cars that were stuck, moving them and towing other cars that were blocking traffic.

Martin Norman, a traveller who drove through Möðrudalsöræfi between Egilstaðir and Mývatn yesterday told RÚV that traffic only went 20-30 km per hour and claims to have passed at least six cars that were off the road. He criticised car rentals for renting out cars on summer tyres. He contacted the car rental he had rented a car from who told him that the problem was the law that states that cars can’t be equipped with winter tyres until November 1, under penalty of fines.

Gold Car told RÚV that police had been fining drivers in Reykjavík for driving cars on winter tyres. It wasn’t until late yesterday that the police in the capital area issued a statement that they would not be fining drivers in the capital area due to icy roads in other areas of the country. As soon as the statement was made, the car rental started changing the tyres on their cars. Customers who contact them are directed to contact the nearest garage to have their tyres changed.

According to Sævar Sævarsson, COO of Blue Car Rental, which runs Gold Car, car rentals usually run into problems around this time of year, torn between following the law and ensuring the safety of drivers. “This weather is unseasonably early but this discussion usually takes place in October and again in April when it’s time to change the tyres again. ”