Deep North Episode 45: Borrowed Crime

icelandic true crime

On May 26, 1982, sisters Yvette and Marie Luce Bahuaud arrived in Iceland from France. On August 15, after nearly three months of travelling, they came to the town of Djúpivogur in East Iceland. Having spent the night at a hotel, they planned to hitchhike to Skaftafell, a preservation area just south of the Vatnajökull glacier, which had become a national park in 1957. Their murder that night has proved to be one of the stranger episodes in Icelandic history, and we consider this tragic event in the wider context of the ever-growing true crime genre.

Read the story here.

Bankastræti Hearing Begins in Banquet Hall

Judge's gavel

A hearing involving 25 defendants, most in their twenties, began yesterday in Reykjavík, though not in a traditional courtroom. As the District Court of Reykjavík did not have a courtroom large enough to accommodate the number of people involved in the case, an alternative venue needed to be found. The court eventually settled on a banquet hall in the suburban neighbourhood of Grafarvogur, which was then adapted to the purposes of the hearing, though not without issues.

25 attackers, three victims

The hearing centres on a knife attack at Bankastræti Club in downtown Reykjavík in November 2022 when a group of masked men barged into the nightclub in November of last year and attacked three men. Twenty-five people have been charged in the case: one for attempted murder, ten for “specially dangerous assault,” and the other fourteen for participating in the attack. The three victims sustained stab wounds and other injuries.

Banquet hall turned courtroom

“I don’t remember that there have been so many defendants and defence attorneys and other witnesses gathered in one place in a court case in Iceland,” defence attorney Ómar R. Valdimarsson told RÚV reporters at the banquet hall yesterday.

“We know this hall well because we’ve come here for confirmation parties and wedding parties. So it’s a bit of a different atmosphere,” stated Jón Þór Ólason, a defence attorney for one of the defendants.

Coffee shortage ruffles lawyers

Attorneys have criticised the unusual location and its constraints. Among other things, lawyers complained that there was no coffee available at the location. Some headed to a nearby KFC to satisfy their caffeine cravings while others resorted to purchasing energy drinks from a shop at the location. After a recess, Judge Sigríður Hjaltested who is overseeing the hearing stated that the coffee issue would hopefully be resolved by the following day.

Reykjavík District Court Judge Ingibjörg Þorsteinsdóttir stated the banquet hall was chosen for the hearing as it “turned out to be the room that would be the simplest to convert into a courtroom and for the least amount of money, although it still costs a lot.”

At the beginning of yesterday’s session, Judge Sigríður Hjaltested announced that the media would not be permitted to report on the contents of the hearing just yet, but the ban would probably be lifted on Thursday.

Man Recovering After Stabbing in Downtown Reykjavík

police lögreglan

A man in his twenties was stabbed with a knife in downtown Reykjavík yesterday evening behind a building on Austurvöllur square. The man was transported to the National Hospital where he underwent surgery and his condition is “as may be expected,” according to a press release from the capital area police department.

Police were tipped off on the incident between 10:00 and 11:00 PM last night. They went to the scene and made four arrests in relation to the case. Three were released from custody shortly afterwards. The police states that the fourth is “of a young age,” and “housed in the appropriate facilities.” Vísir reported that the injured man had run into Pósthús food hall after the incident, where he received first aid treatment, and walked out to the ambulance himself.

Media coverage of several violent incidents in Iceland this year has many in the public concerned that the rate of violent crime is increasing in the country. However, statistics show that Iceland’s homicide rate has in fact decreased per capita. Many recent crimes have involved young, Icelandic males, however, which Professor of Criminology Helgi Gunnlaugsson believes should be studied. “It’s important to understand what’s going on in their minds, what’s happening in their environment so that they think this is how you solve conflicts or arguments,” he said. “It’s important to look at the ideology. These young Icelandic males think carrying these weapons around is important and they are prepared to use them. We need to study what’s happening with young males that are on the margins of society,” he told Iceland Review last year.

Underage Manslaughter Suspects in Custody at Youth Rehab Centre

The three underage suspects in a manslaughter case that occurred last week are in custody at the youth rehab centre Stuðlar, Vísir reports. The fourth suspect in the case is 18 and is currently in custody at Hólmsheiði Prison. Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson of the Icelandic police’s central investigative department told RÚV the case investigation is proceeding well. The case has sparked concern among experts of increased violent behaviour among Icelandic youth as well as xenophobia towards the immigrant community.

The four teenagers are all of Icelandic origin and are suspected of manslaughter in the stabbing and death of a 27-year-old Polish man in Hafnarfjörður last week. According to RÚV’s sources, one of the suspects recorded the attack on their phone. Police are investigating whether the video is being shared.

Underage suspects placed in isolation

The four suspects were at first placed in isolation for the interest of the investigation, with one of the underage suspects initially housed at Hólmsheiði Prison, a facility for adults. That suspect has since been moved to Stuðlar youth rehab centre where the other two underage suspects are being held. It is unusual to keep suspects under the age of 18 in isolation, but the decision to do so was made in the interest of the investigation. The suspects were provided with therapy and consultation and efforts were made to reduce the negative impact of the isolation. The custody ruling on the four suspects runs out on Thursday. At least one of the four has appealed the detention to the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur).

Violent behaviour more normalised among youth

The case has shocked the local community, with some experts concerned about growing xenophobia as well as increased violence among youth in Iceland.

Criminologist Helgi Gunnlaugsson says the belief that carrying and using weapons is normal has gained a foothold among certain groups of youth in Iceland. Young people often don’t seem to understand the dangers and consequences of using weapons, according to Helgi, who says a concerted effort is needed to address the problem.

Helgi told Vísir that a certain polarisation is taking place. While society in general has less tolerance for violence of any kind, “At the same time, among young people, especially men, often on the margins, it seems to be happening that this idea arises that it’s simply natural and justifiable to carry various kinds of weapons. And not only carry these weapons, but also even use them if some sort of conflict or disagreement comes up.”

“Many people need to participate in this, to uproot this use of weapons and the ideology behind it. It is in essence not just one party, law enforcement, that can do it,” Helgi says. “Rather school authorities, families, after-school centres, and more, must also come together to make us, and especially young people, aware of what is at stake.”

Four Arrested Following Manslaughter in Hafnarfjörður

Icelandic police

Four people, three of them under 18, are being detained by capital area police in connection to the death of a Hafnarfjörður man.

In a statement by law enforcement, they were tipped off around midnight to a confrontation between the suspects and victim in the parking lot of Fjarðarkaup in Hólshraun, a district in Hafnarfjörður.

Police arrived at the scene shortly after, where they found the victim. The victim was transported to the emergency room, where he was pronounced dead.

The other four parties were arrested in connection with the case.

Capital area authorities note that the investigation is still in its early stages, and no further details are available at this time.

Nurse Charged with Manslaughter Pleads Not Guilty

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

A National Hospital nurse charged with manslaughter has pleaded not guilty in a recent hearing by the Reykjavík District Court.

The nurse in question was charged with manslaughter in December of 2022 for “crimes committed in public service.”

See also: National Hospital Nurse Charged with Manslaughter

The nurse stands accused of force-feeding a patient in the National Hospital to death in August of 2021. She is said to have culpably caused the death of the victim, a woman in her fifties.

The accused was originally sentenced to be kept in custody for some time during the course of the investigation, but Vísir reports that this decision was overruled by the National Court.

The case is expected to be judged by judicial panel, in addition to including the testimony of medical professionals.

The hearing is scheduled for January 30.

National Hospital Nurse Charged with Manslaughter

Landspítali national hospital

A nurse in the psychiatric ward of Landsspítali has been charged with manslaughter and crimes committed during public employment.

The nurse is accused of having culpably caused the death of a psychiatric patient by force-feeding them. The victim in question is said to be a woman in her fifties. It is alleged that the nurse force-fed her liquid food to the point of choking.

Anna Barbara Andradóttir, prosecutor at the district attorney’s office, confirmed this in a recent statement to RÚV.

The accused is a woman in her sixties, who had previously worked in department 33C at Landsspítali. The charges were brought against her about two weeks ago.

The case was first made known August of last year. Source report that the investigation has been wide in scope, with some 20 witnesses in total called to give an account.

The case is scheduled to be heard in court this January.

 

 

Dismissed for Distributing Video of Stabbing

police station reykjavík

The individual responsible for distributing video footage of the recent knife attacks in a downtown Reykjavík nightclub has been relieved from their post, reports RÚV.

Ólafur Þór Hauksson, district prosecutor, confirmed this in a statement to RÚV, and stated that it is not believed the employee in question intended for the video to be distributed so widely. However, since its release one week ago, the video has been shared extensively across social media.

The video in question showed footage from the security cameras in the downtown Reykjavík club as a group of masked men entered the building and stabbed three individuals.

Read more: 24 People Connected to Knife Attack Released from Police Custody

At the time of the leak, there was concern that the leak of the video could potentially hurt the investigation of the case.

Now, Reykjavík police have concluded their investigation of the matter and consider the case closed.

After the leak, police officer Grímur Grímsson stated that “the video appears to have been recorded with a phone from the computer screen, and it appears to be a police workstation. I think we can say that this has never happened before, that information on an ongoing investigation has been leaked in this way.”

Read more: Heightened Police Presence Over Weekend

Presumably, the police were able to trace the workstation back to the relevant employee and conclude the investigation.

Several people are reported to have been questioned on the video and its distribution.

No further information on the responsible individual has been provided, except that they were an employee of the police force. As of Friday, their employment is reported to have been terminated.

 

Minister of Justice to Declare War on Organised Crime

Jón Gunnarsson Alþingi

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has announced his intention to wage war against organised crime following the knife attacks in a Reykjavík club last week, which have been taken as signs of gang warfare.

On Thursday night, November 17, a group of masked and armed men stormed a Reykjavík nightclub, stabbing three men, who were since transported to the ER.

Of the nearly 30 men involved in the attack, already some 14 have been apprehended by the police. Two are suspected to have fled the country, with the police now searching for the remaining suspects.

Read more: Petrol Bombs and Threats of Retaliation Following Knife Attack

According to Minister Jón Gunnarsson, the incident reveals a problem with organised crime in a nation generally upheld for its security.

In response to the minister’s call for a “war on crime,” efforts are now being prepared to attack the root causes of organised criminality in Iceland.

The Minister has also expressed his desire to strengthen police powers, with what Jón Gunnarsson calls “preventative warrants,” allowing for “proactive investigation.” Such measures have been controversial in Alþingi, but Jón Gunnarsson has stated that his proposals would be “harmless.”

Such warrants would allow police to monitor individuals associated with known criminals and criminal activity, without themselves being found guilty of any crime.

The proposed measures would also add tasers to the police arsenal. Currently, Icelandic police officers only carry batons and pepper spray in the field.

In a statement to Vísir, the Minister said: “The steps we take may prove to be controversial, I have no doubt about that. Both of these new authorisations, for preventative warrants and weapons for the police, may be controversial, but we have to do it.”

 

Children of Victim Grieve After Shooting in Blönduós

crime in iceland

The children of the victim of the shooting in Blönduós have released a statement in which they critiqued media coverage of the attack, and asked for peace while they grieve.

The attack took place this Sunday morning, August 21, at 5:30 AM. Two were left dead and one seriously injured after the attack, which appears to have been a dispute between a former employee and the victim.

Following the attack, two were taken into custody. However, they have since been released.

In their statement, the children of the victim said:

“On Sunday, our lives changed forever and will never be the same again. We mourn our mother and our father is seriously injured in the hospital. We have received warm greetings and support from all over the country. For that we are grateful. It is more difficult than words can describe to go through what we are experiencing right now. It is even more serious when the media reports false and misleading news about incidents and invades our privacy by posting pictures and repeatedly calling us, our closest friends and relatives. Therefore, we kindly ask the media to respect the privacy of our private life, family and home. We need peace to deal with this trauma, to mourn our mother and care for our father. Because today, nothing is more important than his recovery. Everything we have to say is stated above. We will not comment further. We reiterate that we ask the media to respect it. Sandra, Hilmar, Pétur and Karen.”

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has also released a statement regarding the tragedy, seen above in a Facebook post. In her statement, she called on the entire nation to support the affected community in their time of need.