Calls for Better Mental Healthcare After Inmate Found Dead

Litla-Hraun Prison in South Iceland

An inmate at Litla-Hraun Prison was found dead in his cell yesterday morning, RÚV reports. There is no suspicion of foul play. Prisoner advocacy group Afstaða criticised the Icelandic government for not ensuring adequate mental health services for inmates in the country’s prisons.

Director General of the Prison and Probation Administration Páll Winkel stated that the South Iceland Police is investigating the death.

Mental health services lacking

In a statement published on Facebook, Afstaða, an Icelandic organisation that advocates for prisoners’ rights, called on “the government to wake up from its slumber and do something about prison issues, not least with regard to the mental health of people who are deprived of their freedom.”

Lack of mental healthcare for inmates has been a persistent problem in the Icelandic prison system for years. In 2018, there were only three psychologists and no psychiatrist serving some 1,000 people in the system, 75% of whom were believed to require mental health services. Between 2017-2019, two prisoners committed suicide, and their deaths were linked to the disarray in mental health services.

In December 2019, a specialised, interdisciplinary mental health team was established to provide prisoners across the country with mental health services, but more recent reports from international supervisory bodies point to continual issues.

Aging facilities

Litla-Hraun is one of Iceland’s two closed prisons. Its first building was completed in 1929 and was meant to be a hospital but was never used as such. In the ensuing decades, more buildings were added to the prison, but never with a holistic design strategy. A November 2023 Icelandic National Audit Office report stated that the prison does not fulfil modern safety requirements.

Litla-Hraun is set to be replaced by a brand-new facility in 2028. In an interview in February 2024, Þórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, chair of the Parliament’s Constitutional and Supervisory Committee, stated that authorities cannot simply wait for the new facilities to improve conditions in Icelandic prisons. Þórunn stated that it was necessary to improve existing facilities and improve the prisoners’ environment so that it supports their rehabilitation.

Read more about prisons in Iceland.

Suspected Murder in Akureyri

Akureyri

A man is being detained by police following the death of his wife in their rental apartment in an Akureyri building. The man is in his 60s and will be held for a week on suspicion of murder, Vísir reports.

Domestic violence suspected

The woman was around 50 years old and the couple had just moved into the apartment this winter along with their son in his 20s. Neighbours described having heard shouting from the apartment at times, but did not notice anything Sunday night or Monday morning when the woman passed away. Police arrived at the scene Monday morning after 4 AM.

Police are investigating whether the incident was a case of domestic violence that resulted in the woman’s death, sources said.

No official information

However, local police have not given any official information about the case, not even about the age of the people involved or their relationships. The investigation is at a sensitive stage, police said, and Reykjavík Metropolitan Police technical staff have been flown north to Akureyri to assist in the crime scene investigation.

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Missing Hiker Found Dead in Fimmvörðuháls Hiking Trail

Small boat fishermen crowd the Arnarstapi harbour each summer for the coastal fishing season

A man in his sixties was found dead at the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail in South Iceland yesterday. Hiking conditions have been difficult over the past few days.

Difficult hiking conditions

A man in his sixties was found dead yesterday at Fimmvörðuháls in South Iceland, one of the most popular hiking trails in the country. The man, who was of foreign origin, was an Icelandic resident. His death is not believed to have occurred under suspicious circumstances.

As noted by RÚV, the last contact with the man was on Sunday, Easter Day, when he mentioned his plans to hike to the Baldvinsskáli mountain hut. The police were notified at noon yesterday that the man had not returned to work after Easter. His car was found in the parking area at Skógar, prompting the call for the assistance of rescue teams, which were subsequently dispatched from the towns of Hvolsvöllur and Hella. A helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard was also dispatched, which eventually spotted the man from the air.

In a statement, the police noted that the weather conditions at Fimmvörðuháls had been poor over the last few days, making hiking conditions unfavourable.

Fatal Accident in Reykjanesbær, Investigation Underway

Small boat fishermen crowd the Arnarstapi harbour each summer for the coastal fishing season

A fatal workplace accident occurred yesterday at Fitjabraut in Reykjanesbær, Vísir reports. An investigation is currently underway.

Reports of a loud explosion

Yesterday morning, a fatal workplace accident occurred at Fitjabraut in Reykjanesbær. Vísir reports that police received a call about the incident at 11:27 AM, and emergency services quickly arrived at the scene.

“The responders confirmed upon arrival that the accident was fatal. An investigation is currently ongoing, and further details are not available at this moment,” stated the Suðurnes Police.

Vísir’s sources indicated that a loud explosion was heard at the time of the accident. Fitjabraut, where the incident took place, is mainly an industrial area located near Reykjanesbær’s harbour.

One Dead Following Reykjavík Fire

fatal accident Iceland

Three people were transported to hospital for emergency care after a fire broke out in an industrial building in Reykjavík yesterday afternoon. One later died in intensive care, according to a notice from Capital Area Police. The condition of the other two is not considered life-threatening. People were living in the building although it is not zoned for residential use.

Fire safety evaluated as adequate

A spokesperson for one of the building’s owners told RÚV yesterday that authorities had recently decided to reclassify the part of the building that people had been living in from residential housing to commercial housing, and that the owners wanted to have that decision overturned. The spokesperson also stated that the fire department had evaluated fire safety measures on the premises on October 13 as being adequate, with the exception of lacking one fire escape. The owners had been given a deadline to install an additional fire escape and had been addressing the issue.

The cause of the fire is unknown but an investigation is underway.

Many people living in non-residential buildings in capital area

This is the second case of a fire breaking out in an industrial building being used as housing in the capital area within two months. On August 20, a fire broke out in Hafnarfjörður in an industrial building where at least 17 people had been living. Luckily, no injuries or fatalities were reported. Six people who had been sleeping when the fire broke out were rescued from the flames.

“Residing in commercial [or industrial] buildings is still not permitted, though there is a lot of it in the capital area,” Birgir Finsson, Acting Fire Chief of Greater Reykjavík, told reporters at the time.

Fatal house fire prompts regulation changes

Following a fatal house fire in June 2020, Icelandic authorities launched an investigation into housing conditions in Iceland that found that between 5,000 and 7,000 people were living in properties classified as commercial or industrial buildings in Iceland in 2021. In July 2023, the Minister of Infrastructure drafted an amendment to fire safety regulations in an effort to ensure more people have their actual residence registered correctly and make it easier for authorities to enter housing where fire prevention measures may be inadequate.

Trial in Ólafsfjörður Murder Case Scheduled for Next Week

Metropolitan Police

A man accused of homicide in Ólafsfjörður last year is said to have stabbed the deceased twice in the left side, resulting in fatal bleeding, RÚV reports. The case is scheduled for trial next week.

Stabbed the man twice

A man in his thirties has been charged with the murder of a man in Ólafsfjörður in North Iceland last year. The defendant reportedly stabbed the victim twice in the left side, causing him to bleed to death, RÚV reports.

The prosecutor is seeking for the accused, 37, to be sentenced and to cover all legal costs. Additionally, there are two separate civil claims against him: one demanding compensation totalling ISK 12 million [$88,000 / €83,000] plus interest, and the other seeking damages amounting to just under ISK 11 million [$81,000 / €76,000] plus interest, due to the loss of the provider. The deceased was 46 years old.

Unable to rule out self defence

The man died from stab wounds in his home in Ólafsfjörður on the eve of Monday, October 3, Last Year. Originally, three individuals were detained in custody, but two were soon released: the wife of the deceased and the homeowner. The accused claimed that the deceased initiated the confrontation, and the evidence in the case supported this, according to the custody order.

In the police incident report, it is noted that the deceased is believed to have attacked the accused with a knife. According to the defendant, he tried to wrestle the knife away from the deceased, who then fell onto the knife and was fatally wounded. Among other details, the custody decision highlighted that it could not be ruled out that provisions of the Penal Code on self-defence were applicable. Nevertheless, the accused’s detention was extended, in part due to suspicions of his involvement in other crimes.

He was released from prison in March 2022 on parole, with an unplanned remaining sentence of 220 days. According to the detention order, he had at least six encounters with the police since then.

The accused was held in custody for just over a month, until November 7. He is the only one being prosecuted in the case, which is set for trial in the District Court of Northeast Iceland on Tuesday, September 26.

Teen Dies in Þrengslavegur Car Crash

Small boat fishermen crowd the Arnarstapi harbour each summer for the coastal fishing season

An 18-year-old motorist has died after an accident on Þrengslavegur in South Iceland yesterday morning.

Vehicle veered off the road

The South Iceland Police was notified of a car accident at 8:38 AM yesterday on Þrengslavegur, which links the Ring Road to southern coastal towns. The vehicle veered off the road and rolled multiple times. Authorities temporarily closed Þrengslavegur for on-site operations.

The driver of the vehicle, who was 18 years old, was pronounced dead upon arrival at the National University Hospital. The identity of the driver has yet to be revealed.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the South Iceland Police and the Accident Investigation Board.

Three Dead in East Iceland Plane Crash

fatal accident Iceland

Three died last night, July 9, in a plane crash southwest of Egilsstaðir.

First responders in East Iceland were called out last night after following reports of a missing plane, reported to be a Cessna 172. The 4-seater aircraft sent out a distress call around 5:01pm. In addition to ICESAR and a coastguard helicopter, Vísir reports that a helicopter from a tourist travel service also joined the search. Nearly all East Iceland first responders were called out.

The wreckage was seen around 8:00pm last night. Initially spotted by an Icelandair flight en route to Egilsstaðir, the crash site was confirmed by the tourism helicopter.

The three, including the pilot and two passengers, were pronounced dead at the scene.

East Iceland police have stated that the case is still in its early stages and they will investigate the matter further with the proper authorities.

Suspect Detained in Connection With Selfoss Death Released

Selfoss - Suðurland - Ölfusá

The police in South Iceland have released one of the two men arrested in connection with the death of a young woman in Selfoss last week. The authorities are seeking extended custody over the other suspect.

Death at a private residence in Selfoss

Last Friday, two men in their twenties were arrested following the death of a woman at a private residence in Selfoss, South Iceland. Frímann Baldursson, Chief Inspector with the Selfoss Police, told Vísir at the time that the circumstances of the woman’s death remained “unclear” and that a preliminary investigation was underway.

Yesterday, the South Iceland Police announced that one of the men had been released from custody. The announcement also noted that the investigation into the woman’s death was still ongoing. The woman was named Sofia Sarmite Kolesnikova and she was 28 years old, Vísir reports.

“Recently, the police chief made a decision to release the second man from custody. A demand has been submitted to the district court for the other man to remain in custody, based on the interests of the investigation,” the announcement from the police reads.

Vísir also spoke to attorney Torfi Ragnar Sigurðsson, who is representing the young man who has been recently released from custody: “My client has been released from custody. The fact that he was released indicates that the police believe that he was not involved in the [woman’s death.]”

Two Men Detained Following Death of Young Woman in Selfoss

A woman in her twenties was found dead at a private residence in Selfoss yesterday. Two men, also in their twenties, have been detained by the police, Vísir reports.

Preliminary investigation underway

Two people were arrested yesterday following the death of a woman in her twenties at a private residence in Selfoss, South Iceland. Frímann Baldursson, Chief Inspector with the Selfoss Police, told Vísir that the circumstances of the death remain unclear and that a preliminary investigation was underway.

“There is a preliminary investigation underway. While we are investigating the case, two people are being held in custody. The circumstances are a bit unclear,” Frímann stated. As noted by Vísir, the South Iceland Police are being assisted by the technical department of the Capital Area Police, which is focused on determining how the woman’s death occurred.

RÚV reported on the story first.