New hearing hopes to finally solve Scandinavian Star mystery

New 236-page document could shed some light on the tragedy

Scandinavia's largest unsolved crime mystery could finally be solved almost 25 years after a raging fire aboard the passenger liner 'Scandinavian Star' on 7 April 1990 left 158 of the ship's 482 passengers dead as it made its way from Oslo to Frederikshavn.

At a court hearing at the City Courts in Copenhagen beginning this week, the Danish and Norwegian authorities have called in one of the survivors of the tragedy, Mike Axdal, as a witness. Axdal is expected to produce a 236-page document that will shed light on the incident – and reveal some surprises.

Axdal, who lost his father and brother in the fire and is the spokesperson for Scandinavian Star's Danish support group, has been investigating the travesty for years and wants to bring closure to those affected by the disaster. He is running out of time though, as the case will be outdated in three months time.

”We want closure in this case,” Axdal told DR Nyheder. ”The truth must come out once and for all, so the survivors and relatives can move on with their lives, and so those who died aboard can rest in peace.”

According to the special prosecutor, Axdal's documentation includes ”essential information”.

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Insurance fraud?
In connection with an earlier investigation, the Norwegian police put the blame on a Danish truck driver who died in the fire himself, but a number of Swedish fire experts have sowed doubts on those findings, because it is unlikely that the Dane could have started all six fires on the ship.

In September last year, the Danish attorney general Ole Hasselgaard agreed to assist the Norwegians in their new investigations, but underlined that there would not be another Danish investigation.

The hearing this week will primarily concern ownership and shipping conditions and will most likely clear up whether the ferry was set ablaze as part of an insurance fraud, as many relatives believe is the case.

Factfile: The Scandinavian Star tragedy time line

April 1, 1990

Two days after being acquired by VR DaNo from the US cruise line SeaEscape, the Scandinavian Star begins its first trip with passengers from Frederikshavn to Oslo.

April 6

The Scandinavian Star departs as planned from Oslo heading for Frederikshavn with 383 passengers and 99 crew members aboard.

April 7

01:45

A fire is reported outside cabin 416 on the port side of deck 4. The burning bed linen is quickly extinguished.

02:06

A new fire starts in the aft part of the hall on deck 3 near cabin 219. The fire is started using an open flame, and after a few minutes, fire and toxic fumes spread to the cabin sections on deck 4 and 5 and on up through the ship. At this point, the ferry is located at the mouth of Oslo fjord

02:24

Scandinavian Star sends out 'Mayday' calls and confirms that its passengers will be sent to the lifeboats

03:00

The first lifeboats are lowered into the ocean

03:20

The captain and a number of officers leave the ferry in the last lifeboats

03:35

The first rescue helicopters arrive at the burning ferry

10:26

The rescue centre in Sola reveals that 175 people are still missing

13:00

75 people are found dead, while 90 are still missing

April 8

03:26

Firemen have battled throughout the night to get the fire under control, but an explosion at the front of the ship gets the fire going again

15:00

The first deceased passengers are lifted from the ship's stern

16:00

The fire aboard the ship is finally extinguished

April 9

08:00

The salvage work continues all day, and by the evening, 93 bodies have been removed from the ship, including 10-15 children

April 24

08:00

The final casualty figures are released. They reveal that 157 passengers and one crew member died during the tragedy