From Iceland — Dozens Questioned Over West Reykjavik Fire, No Word On Property Owner

Dozens Questioned Over West Reykjavik Fire, No Word On Property Owner

Published July 29, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by

Police have questioned about 30 people as witnesses in connection with a house fire in West Reykjavík on June 25th, wherein three people died, Fréttablaðið reports, according to information from the capital area police. Amongst those questioned are those injured or registered as living at the address and those who were near the blaze, but there is no word on whether the property owner is being questioned or investigated.

The fire is currently being investigated as arson and deliberate homocide. A suspect is in custody, with that set to expire on August 6th. Police say it was not possible to question him sooner due to his mental state.

Police investigations of the scene have concluded, but before charges are filed police are awaiting results of samples taken at the location. No other suspects are being investigated.

As reported, 73 people were registered at living at the house, but the exact number of those physically living there was likely close to a dozen. The house itself has appeared in the media on a few occasions as housing workers living in unfit conditions. In 2015, Stundin interviewed a former resident of the house, who described the house as dilapidated, infected with mold, and housing mostly foreign rental workers who paid as much as 90,000 ISK per month in rent for a small room, with no fire exit apart from the main entrance. In 2018, journalist Eiríkur Jónsson also reported on the unsanitary living conditions visible even from outside the house.

The property is registered as belonging to a company called HD verk ehf, Vísir reports. They also report that this property is not registered as a residential property nor as a guesthouse, making it illegal to house people there.

The owner of the property, Kristinn Jón Gíslason, has despite all this denied any wrongdoing, and police have not disclosed if he is being investigated let alone charged with any crime.

The story has been a flashpoint in the immigrant community, and prompted a protest demonstration in front of Parliament demanding that Icelandic authorities take further action to combat foreign worker exploitation. No concrete action has yet been announced.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

You can also support us by checking out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!