National Round-Up: ‘Serial killer’ failed by the system

Rehabilitation record the envy of the world, but not all incarcerations are success stories

The director of public affairs at Café Exit, the support group organisation for former prisoners, has queried why the man suspected of killing three elderly people in Østerbro in February and March wasn’t under lock and key.

Since his arrest it has come to light that the 26-year-old had prior convictions for both rape and murder, and Hans Andersen from Cafe Exit, who is himself a former prisoner, questions whether the system “examined him closely enough”.

“Instead of helping him, they released him and then didn’t check on him, and all of a sudden he’s in a position where he might have murdered another three people,” Andersen told CPH POST.

“Maybe these three killings could have been prevented if the system had been working as it should be.”

Not a serial killer’s profile
Arrested on March 9, the man is suspected of killing an 81-year-old woman on March 7, an 83-year-old woman on February 7 and an 80-year-old man on March 2.

However, despite the serial nature of the crimes, Andersen does not believe the person responsible is a serial killer.

“What qualifies a serial killer is someone who kills for fun,” he said. “I think he has not done it for fun. He has maybe done it just to get some money for drugs and so on, so I don’t think it qualifies him as such.”

Long sentence likely
The average sentence for murder in Denmark is 16 years, but Professor Anne Okkels-Birk, an independent criminology consultant, is doubtful the person responsible is of sane mind.
“I would say for this man here, if he is guilty of three murders, there’s a very high likelihood of insanity,” she said.

“Insanity would also mean that he would only get out when he was okay again, and then he would have to stay on probation. There is a likelihood of lifetime imprisonment and there is a likelihood of security detention. I don’t see anything lenient.”

And even if the suspect is convicted of murder, contends Okkels-Birk, he’ll probably be judged to be psychotic and committed to a psychiatric ward.

“I think this might be relevant here because if the man was psychotic at the time of the crime, then he will be sent to a psychiatric hospital instead of going to prison,” she explained.

Failed by society
Ultimately, says Andersen, most killers are victims. In his line of work, he meets a lot of people who have fallen through the cracks in society.

“Quite a few of the guys in prison: they have had a very poor childhood, very poor upbringing, never had an education, never met love in their life,” he said. “You could really make a difference if you catch them at an early age.”

Okkels-Birk concurs, adding: “Most people who commit murder in Denmark are people who are ordinarily functioning people who get into a very, very bad life situation in which they kill somebody or they are in an environment of drug addiction and abuse.”

Still an exemplary example
Nevertheless, Denmark continues to have a much lower per capita murder rate than countries like the US, for example, where there are an estimated 2,000 serial killers at large right now. Beyond the Østerbro killer and Thomas Quick, who was convicted in the 1990s of murdering eight people in Sweden and Norway, Scandinavia has none.

As well as some “hard to understand” gun laws, contends Andersen, the US is averse to adopting open prison systems – the key to Denmark’s better rehabilitation rate, as the system allows for people to better readapt to society after release from prison, often leaving them better off than when they came in.

“Most people in open prison have regular access to go and visit their friends and family at home,” he said. “And that means that people are tied in better with their community and it’s less of a shock when they leave prison.”

First-hand experience!
Okkels-Birk, who grew up on the grounds of an open prison and recalls one of her childhood friends being the inmate who painted her house, is also a major advocate.

“Open and closed prison systems are tied together,” she explained. “People behave better in a closed prison because they want to go to an open prison. People behave better in open prison because they don’t want to go to closed prison.”

Okkels-Birk believes that if the incentives of an open prison system were transferred to a larger system in another country, the open-prison concept might be successful.

The concept certainly worked for her childhood friend. “He had killed his boss for money,” she recalled. “But I ended up really liking him.”

Digitally good for expats
Denmark is the fourth best country in the world for digital communication for expats, according to InternNations. It rated second best for the ease of cashless payments, but it scored poorly for the ease of getting a local mobile phone number. Estonia topped the rankings, which only included 68 countries.

Drunk scooting crackdown
The police have confirmed that riding an electric scooter will not be tolerated in the same way intoxicated cycling is. An offence will cost you 2,000 kroner, a second 4,000 kroner, and a third a spell in prison. In related news, sales of home-produced electric bikes are now outstripping conventional ones. Last year around 3,000 were sold.

Hoisted by Dad’s petard
The irony wasn’t lost on the country when it emerged that PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s son has fallen victim to Venstre’s 24-year rule, which since 2002 has prevented Danes and non-EU nationals living together if one of the parties is not yet 24. In compliance with the law, his 22-year-old American girlfriend must leave Denmark by the end of May.

Perils of sharing videos
A 29-year-old woman has been sentenced to 80 hours of community service for sharing a video via Facebook that showed the terror killing of Louisa Jespersen in Morocco in December. The court in Næstved ruled that if she did not do the service, she would go to prison for three months.

Gangrape verdict upheld
The Vestre Landsret high court in Viborg has upheld a decision to acquit four men in their 20s of gang-raping a 19-year-old woman in Herning in December 2017. It was not disputed that the men had sex with her, but the woman claimed they forced her to give them oral sex. New testimony that the woman had been drugged against her will failed to sway the court.

Defending Greenland
With Russia stepping up its military expansion in the Arctic, the defence minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, has conceded that Denmark may need to establish some form of air defence in Greenland. At present, Danish Defence does not the necessary aircraft, operations or communications capability.

Cross-Øresund stabbing
A man suspected of stabbing a Jewish woman in her 60s in Helsingborg was arrested in Denmark on May 14. The suspect is a Muslim man known to the authorities. The woman is the wife of the leader of the Swedish coastal town’s Jewish community. The man has been taken back to Sweden.

Albanian transit port
Esbjerg has seen a surge in Albanians taking advantage of EU laws that permit them to reside in a member country for 90 days. They choose the port because they want to stow away on a boat bound for the UK. Over the first three months of the year, 54 Albanians were caught trying to do so.

Shot dead in New Orleans
A 36-year-old woman has been charged with shooting dead a former Danish soldier in the US city of New Orleans. His wife and two children were informed of his death on May 20 – three days after he was reported missing. The 44-year-old man, who media have linked to the Blood of Heroes biker gang, was apparently in the US to take a road trip on his motorbike.

Orgy trial to begin
The court case of a politician accused of organising orgies and conducting pimping activities has begun in Randers. When Per Zeidler, 56, was arrested in 2017, he was the head of the Committee for Family Affairs at Syddjurs Municipality and preparing for the local elections. He is accused of earning 326,000 kroner from 109 orgies held in between April 2016 and November 2017.

Defence gender pledge
As part of his plans to increase the number of female Danish Defence employees from its current 7 percent share, the defence minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, would like to see more women accepted into the special forces. So far, none have ever made it through the rigorous training programs of the Jaeger Corps, Frogman Corps and the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol.

F35 test flight
Denmark is due to replace its fleet of ageing F16 fighters with 27 new F35s starting in 2023, and on May 22 the replacement type landed in Denmark for the first time. Both F16s and F35s were flown over south Jutland so that local residents could hear the noise-level difference.

Against EU expansion
According to a survey compiled by Danmarks Statistik for Aalborg University, 46 percent of respondents indicated they are against further EU expansion. Only 20 percent said they would be in favour of some form of expansion. The likes of Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey are all believed to be keen on joining.

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