From Iceland — Iceland's Appellate Court Upholds Sentencing Of Murderer

Iceland’s Appellate Court Upholds Sentencing Of Murderer

Published November 23, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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The appellate court has upheld the 19-year sentence for Thomas Møller Olsen, the man charged with and convicted of the murder of Birna Brjáns­dótt­ir last year, in addition to a heavy drug smuggling charge. The murder shocked the nation, and made international headlines at the time, as an outpouring of grief swept the country.

RÚV reports that Thomas still maintains his innocence in the matter, blaming his once-friend Nikolaj Olsen for the crime. However, prosecution maintained his version of events is highly improbable, showing the court video footage which undermined Thomas’ alibi. The court agreed, and so his sentence stands.

As reported, Birna was last seen on CCTV footage in downtown Reykjavík in the early morning hours of January 14, in 2017. Her body was found off the coast of southwest Iceland eight days later. Thomas has been in custody since January 19 of last year.

The clues pointing to Thomas were damning. At some point on her walk along Laugarvegur, Birna either got into or was taken into a red Kia Rio. Her mobile phone continued to produce a signal until it got to Hafnarfjörður, where the signal than switched off. Her boots were found near the harbour, and the largest search-and-rescue operation in Icelandic history was initiated. Of immediate interest to the police was the Greenlandic trawler Polar Nanoq, which had been docked in Hafnarfjörður that evening. A red Kia Rio had been rented by one of the ship’s crew, and subsequent surveillance footage of the area would show two crew members exit the car at the harbour, with one boarding the ship and another driving away. Traces of Birna’s blood were found in the car, and her ID was later found in a trash can on the ship. Days later, her body was discovered in a cove at Selvogsvita, west of Þorlákshöfn in southern Iceland. Subsequent DNA testing would find Thomas’ and Birna’s blood were both present in the car.

Thomas was convicted or Birna’s murder in September 2017. He was also found guilty of possession of 20 kilos of hashish on board the ship he worked on, Polar Nanoq.

In addition to the murder sentence, he will also have to pay 28 million ISK in legal fees, as well as 4 million ISK and 3 million ISK, plus interest, to Birna’s father and mother, respectively. Thomas was not present for sentencing.

While Thomas could conceivably appeal the matter to the Supreme Court, neither he nor his attorney have indicated if they will do so.

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