Long-Detained Suspect in Selfoss Murder Case Claims Innocence

Selfoss - Suðurland - Ölfusá

A man suspected of murdering a woman in Selfoss this spring denies having strangled her, RÚV reports. His attorney believes that the courts are bending the law by keeping the man in extended custody.

Unusual silence

Four months after a woman in her twenties was discovered dead in Selfoss, the cause of her death remains uncertain. The prime suspect claims he found her lifeless, and the man’s attorney argues that the prolonged detention of his client exceeds legal limits.

After the woman was discovered in a private residence in Selfoss on April 27, two stepbrothers, also in their twenties, were initially apprehended. The younger brother was released soon thereafter. An unusual silence has surrounded the investigation, uncommon for murder cases in Iceland, which RÚV suggests owes to the sensitive and ambiguous nature of the investigation.

Suspicious behaviour

As noted by RÚV, the police suspect the older brother of strangling the woman, as evidenced by marks on her neck. Initial autopsy results remain inconclusive, however, and the suspect refutes claims of violence. He alleges that he discovered the woman deceased in the bathroom, attributing her death to drugs.

Authorities question his delay in alerting emergency services; instead, the suspect is to have moved the body, performed CPR, and called his brother over to the house – prior to accompanying him for a car ride. The suspect later conceded his actions were misguided, citing shock and drug influence.

Urgent investigative interests non-existent

Recent updates in the case have solely concerned extensions to the suspect’s custody, now set until the end of the month. As noted by RÚV, this will mark his 18th week in custody, and the investigation is still ongoing. This is notable given that Article 95 of the Criminal Code limits detention to twelve weeks without an indictment, barring urgent investigative needs.

Vilhjálmur H. Vilhjálmsson, the suspect’s attorney, questions the “urgent investigative interests” justifying his client’s prolonged detention. “In my view, they don’t exist,” he stated in an interview with RÚV yesterday. Since assuming the defence role six weeks ago, Vilhjálmur maintained that he had observed no progress in the investigation, expressing concern over potential precedents sidelining the twelve-week rule. Such extensions are notably rare, especially of this magnitude.

When queried about the case’s peculiarities, Vilhjálmur stated: “The final autopsy report is yet to be obtained and there are some letters of request. However, my client can’t influence these outcomes, negating any investigative interests.” Vilhjálmur believes the prolonged detention, framed as investigative advocacy, is a ploy to grant police extended investigation time under the guise of public interest.

Residential Survey on Downtown Selfoss

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Last week, the Árborg Municipal Council approved a public consultation regarding a proposed change to the zoning plan in downtown Selfoss and an agreement between the municipality and Sigtún Development Company.

As part of an initiative to revitalise Selfoss, the largest town in South Iceland, planners have in recent years begun work on a walkable, historic downtown area. New shops and a food hall have already popped up, in addition to recent investments into other community infrastructure.

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The proposed change involves reducing the size of Sigtúnsgarður Park by 2,800 square metres while increasing the total public space downtown by 1,400 square metres.

The survey began last Thursday and will conclude on Thursday, May 25th at 6:00 p.m. Residents of Árborg, aged sixteen and older, can participate in the survey.

An informational meeting was also held yesterday, May 22, where representatives from both Árborg Municipality and Sigtún Development Company fielded questions regarding the proposed changes to zoning.

 

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.

With Growing Debts, Árborg Municipality Nears Bankruptcy

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The municipality of Árborg in South Iceland is facing financial difficulties due to inflation and a decline in real estate revenues.

Following an assessment of the municipality’s financial situation by international accounting firm KPMG, the municipal council has called a meeting with residents to discuss the town’s financial position, which is reportedly extremely challenging compared to other municipalities.

The town has taken out loans with increasing interest rates in recent years, and the council fears that they may be on the verge of bankruptcy, with a negative net worth of ISK 76,000 [$550, €509] per resident. In contrast, other comparable towns like Reykjanesbær, Mosfellsbær, Akureyri, and Akranes have positive net worth per resident.

See also: No Gender Pay Gap in Árborg

The town has been in financial trouble for a long time, with a negative net worth per resident of ISK 20,000 in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be entirely blamed for the financial situation, but the town invested heavily in infrastructure and construction in recent years, including new schools, sports facilities, and a kindergarten, which have contributed to the financial issues. The council is concerned that they may have to resort to layoffs and selling off assets to address their financial problems.

Mayor of Árborg Municipality, Fjóla Kristinsdóttir, stated to Vísir: “I expect there will be some streamlining. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. But of course, we are not going to pay off the municipality’s debts by just streamlining operations. There needs to be more done.”

Árborg’s debt is approximately ISK 28 billion [$205 million, €188 million], with increasing debt-to-income ratios. The council is currently discussing possible solutions, including raising taxes, reducing spending, or selling assets. However, the town’s mayor notes that many of the investments made in recent years have been necessary due to the town’s growing population, and it is challenging to balance the needs of the community with the financial constraints they now face.

Winter Weather Wreaks Havoc

Snowstorms in south and southwest Iceland wreaked havoc on Saturday, leading to road closures, the opening of additional emergency centres, dozens of calls to ICE-SAR to rescue people from cars stranded on roadways, and flight disruptions, RÚV reports.

See Also: It’s Going to Be a White Christmas

Roads around south and southwest Iceland—including the pass over Hellisheði and Mosfellsheiði heaths, Þrengsli, and around Kjalarnes peninsula—closed on Saturday, with teams struggling in low visibility and dense snow to clear a path, even as abandoned cars on the roadway slowed the process considerably.

“Yes, there’s been plenty to do,” said ICE-SAR’s information officer Jón Þór Víglundsson. “Not long ago, there were reports of cars on Mosfellsheiði and rescue teams were called out to deal with it. There were as many as 15 cars. Right as they were getting there, we got news of cars on Kjósskárðsvegur that were in trouble. So this is basically the situation in the southwest, from Borgarfjörður to east of Selfoss. People are finding themselves in trouble.”

Indeed, roads in and around Selfoss were impassable after a night and morning of heavy snow and Grétar Einarsson, foreman of the Icelandic Road Administration in Selfoss, also noted that cars that had gotten stuck on roadways were slowing the clearing process significantly—as were vehicles following directly behind the snowplows as the roads were being cleared.

But while he urged people to stay inside until roads had been sufficiently cleared, Grétar remained jolly. “People asked for Christmas snow and their prayers were clearly answered!”

Most rescue call-outs in Grindavík

Rescue teams responded to dozens of calls all over the country, but the most calls came from around the town of Grindavík, located on the southern coast of the Reykjanes peninsula.

“We’ve got snow accumulation, wind, sleet, driving snow, hailstorms, some thunder—it just doesn’t quit,” said Bogi Adolfsson, who leads the Þorbjörn Search and Rescue team in Grindavík. The team’s main challenge on Saturday was helping people were stuck on Rte. 43, also called Grindavíkurvegur, which closed that morning and stranded a number of people, mostly foreign tourists, who were trying to make their way back to the capital. The Red Cross opened an aid station in the afternoon to provide shelter for those who’d been rescued.

Shortly after noon on Saturday, there were a reported 40 cars stuck on Grindavíkurvegur, many of which were driven by tourists hoping to go to the Blue Lagoon. “A number of tourists have plans and there’s a steady stream of people headed toward the Blue Lagoon,” said Gríndavík detective superintendent Ásmundur Rúnar Gylfason. “They’ve just decided that they’ve got to go to the Blue Lagoon.” Many people en route to the popular destination were not aware of the road closure, and so police and rescue teams were stationed at the intersection with Reykjanesbraut to turn them away, but that caused traffic snares as well.

Further east along the southern coast, in Þorlákshöfn, about a dozen people spent much of the day at the emergency centre that had been opened in the primary school. Many of these individuals had had to spend the night there. “These are people who ICE-SAR rescued from their cars and brought here,” said school principal Ólína Þorleifsdóttir, who said they tried to make those who were stranded comfortable with blankets, bread, cookies, and coffee.

Flight disruptions

Snow accumulation on the runway at Keflavík necessitated the airport closing temporarily for both departures and landings. All flights to Europe were delayed due to weather on Saturday morning, some for upwards of four hours. A flight from Stockholm, Sweden had to land amidst lightning during the latter half of the day.

Both Icelandair flights from Reykjavík to Ísafjörður in the Westfjords had to be cancelled on Saturday, as did the first flight from the capital to Egilsstaðir in East Iceland. Flights from Reykjavík to Akureyri in North Iceland were delayed and one long-delayed flight from Akureyri to Reykjavík took off five hours after it was scheduled, only to be forced to return to Akureyri half-way to the capital due to weather conditions.

As of 7:00 PM, Icelandair had cancelled all flights until the morning, that is, 11 flights to North America, a flight to London Gatwick, and another to Copenhagen. All foreign passengers and those on connecting flights were put up in hotels at the airline’s expense. Icelandair PR representative Ásdís Ýr Pétursdóttir said delays could be expected when flights resumed.

This article was updated.

Hot Water Shortage in Selfoss: Public Pool Closed Indefinitely

Selfoss - Suðurland - Ölfusá

A fire in an electrical box of the Selfossveitur utility company has led to a hot-water shortage in Selfoss. The Árborg municipality has encouraged residents to save water and the public swimming pool in Selfoss has been closed indefinitely.

Contingency plan activated

As noted in a press release from the Árborg municipality yesterday, an electrical box in one of the boreholes of the Selfossveitur utility company caught fire on the night before Thursday, December 8. The fire forced a reduction in energy production, leading to a shortage of hot water.  

Selfossveitur subsequently activated its contingency plan, with residents of the Árborg municipality being encouraged to use their hot water sparingly. The municipality’s website offers advice to residents on how best to save water, including ensuring that windows and front doors remain closed and making sure that radiators are not blocked by long curtains or furniture.

In light of the shortages, Sundhöll Selfoss, the public swimming pool in the town of Selfoss, has been indefinitely closed.

“Which is why we’ve decided to close the Selfoss public swimming pool indefinitely. We will let you know immediately when we have a more detailed timeline regarding when we’ll open again,” a press release from the Selfoss swimming pool on Facebook reads.

 

Árborg municipality
Fire in electrical junction box (Arborg.is)

‘It’s the worst country I’ve ever been to’: Polish Football Player Leaves Iceland, Cites Xenophobia, Discrimination

Polish football player Chris Jastrzembski, formerly of UMF Selfoss in South Iceland, joined the team prior to the start of the current season and made 13 league and cup appearances before transferring to Prey Veng in Cambodia last month. Vísir reports that Jastrzembski endured repeated xenophobic comments and discrimination on the basis of his nationality while living and working in Iceland.

The 25-year-old defender opened up about his experience in Iceland in an interview with the Polish paper Gazeta on Thursday.

“It’s the worst country I’ve ever been to,” he said. “I will never go back. Many Poles live there and they’re fine, but my experience of Icelanders is terrible. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. People are sorted into categories there.”

“The club treated me worse because I have a Polish passport. From day one, those people had no respect for me.”

In the interview, Jastrzembski recalled an incident in which he was putting up scaffolding at the stadium in Selfoss. He was doing so from a ladder that an Icelandic woman was holding for him.

“Then the boss came and told her to stop helping me because the wind wasn’t that strong, and I’d be fine. The woman left and I fell,” Jastrzembski said, adding that the woman had felt bad about the accident and he’d told her not to worry. The supervisor then began speaking to her in Icelandic and she translated what he said for Jastrzembski. According to the woman, what the Icelandic man said was: “To hell with him. He’s just a Pole. If he dies, there are plenty of Poles who can take his place.”

‘Requested to be released from his contract for personal reasons’

In a Facebook post about Jastrzembski’s departure from the team in July, the team wrote:

“Defender Chris Jastrzembski has played his last game for Selfoss. The player requested to be released from his contract with the club for personal reasons and the club has granted that request. Chris joined the team in the winter and played 13 games this summer and scored one goal. We thank Chris for his time here in Selfoss and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Prior to playing for UMF Selfoss, Jastrzembski played in the Faroe Islands, Germany, and for Poland’s national youth football team.

Skyr Exhibition Opens in Selfoss

The history of skyr production and consumption is the subject of a new exhibition that was just opened in Selfoss, South Iceland. Called Skyrland, the exhibition tells visitors the story behind Iceland’s characteristic dairy product, from the first settlers to the 21st century. The exhibition is located in Selfoss’ newly built city centre in the same building as a food hall.

At Skyrland “You’ll discover how 40 generations of women passed their skyr-making knowledge down, from mother to daughter, and how the story moved from isolated turf-roofed farms, to the world,” the exhibition’s website states. The exhibition features stops for all senses, including a “story wall,” an immersive scent exhibit, and even a tasting session for those who want to try the delicacy.

Skyr is a high-protein, low-fat, cultured dairy product. It is technically a cheese but it is consumed like a yogurt. Skyr has a sour flavour and is produced and sold commercially with added flavouring like blueberry or vanilla. It has been a staple of the Icelandic diet for centuries and is even mentioned in a number of Medieval sagas. Cultural historian Hallgerður Gísladóttir has suggested that skyr was produced across Scandinavia at the time Iceland was settled, but the tradition was lost elsewhere after that period.

Catholic Church To Be Built In Selfoss

Municipal authorities in Árborg are requesting comments on a suggestion for the Selfoss city plan that the Catholic Church in Iceland be permitted to erect a church, a congregation hall and a rectory.

The new church buildings are set to rise is in southwest Selfoss, in a plot allocated last year after much deliberation. The blueprints for the buildings are ready, and the buildings are expected to cover 1500 m2 of land and rise no higher than 12,6 m (41.3 ft). The suggestion notes that constructors expect an insignificant increase in traffic to the area but church bells can be expected to ring on holy days. The suggestion also notes that the municipality’s former plans for building a school and kindergarten in the area would have affected the environment much more, especially traffic and noise levels.

According to data from Statistics Iceland, 14,658 people belong to the Catholic Church of Iceland. Its congregation has grown in the past few years, up from only 3,200 in 1998.