Norwegian held for murder of 6 year-old girl

Police arrested the Norwegian, Sven Erik Berger, 49 and his Philippine girlfriend, Karen Castro Esdrelon, 24 at the Mactan airport last Saturday night, after seeing their resemblance to the sketches of the couple that kidnapped and killed Ellah Joy Pique, 6.
They were detained at the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Sunday after five witnesses, four of them children, positively identified them.
But in a press conference, the couple denied they killed or even knew Ellah, a grade one pupil at the Calajoan Elementary School in Minglanilla.
“We can’t do that, we also have children,” said Esdrelon, who has a 2-year-old son from a previous relationship.
Berger, who is separated from his wife and has two children, said they also want justice for Pique’s death.
“We hope they can find the killers,” Berger said.
Lawyer Salvador Solima said if his clients will not be released Monday, they will file a petition for habeas corpus and charge the police with illegal arrest and detention.

Confrontation
The couple was about to take a 10:15 p.m. flight to Hong Kong when they were held by the police.
At the airport, a 10-year-old boy identified them as the couple who picked up Ellah from outside her school last Tuesday afternoon.
Lito (not his real name), a self-confessed pimp, said that Berger was the one who asked him for a girl he could bring with him to Moalboal.
“We never went to Moalboal,” Esdrelon said in Cebuano.
After hearing the allegations, Esdrelon said she got mad and cursed the witnesses.
Lito faced Berger and told the police that the latter, with Esdrelon, approached him on Colon St. at 5 p.m. last Monday, Feb. 7.
Berger called Lito a liar. He arrived in Cebu at 6:40 p.m. that day.

Resemblance
Esdrelon, a registered nurse who worked at the Tuburan Health Center before, said they are set to marry in November this year or June next year.
She said she met Berger in an online dating site on Aug. 19 last year. Two months later, Berger visited Cebu for the first time to meet her.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia also questioned the suspects past 5 p.m. Sunday.
Esdrelon told the governor they are not guilty of the crime.
“Pareho man ni’g nawong nimo (The woman’s face looks like you),” Garcia told Esdrelon after seeing the sketch.
“Daghan kapareha nako, Filipina lagi ko’g beauty (A lot of Filipinas look like me),” Esdrelon said.
Berger, a computer engineer and photography enthusiast, said he left Norway on the morning of Feb. 6.
After stops in London and Hong Kong, he arrived in Mactan last Monday night. Esdrelon met him and they checked in at a hotel in Lapu-Lapu City.

Itinerary
They went out the next day, around 11 a.m.
An hour later, Esdrelon met her aunt at a store on Colon St. to get her engagement ring and bracelet.
From 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Esdrelon said she opened an account at a bank near the Cebu City Hall and enrolled herself at a Norwegian school. She showed reporters the receipts.
Two hours later, the couple dined at a restaurant then went to the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City around 5:30 p.m.
Esdrelon said they have pictures with dates, which were saved in their laptop, to show they were at the hotel on the day Ellah was last seen being picked up outside her school in Minglanilla.
The town lies some 15 kilometers south of Cebu City.
Solima, the couple’s counsel, said they will also get a certification from the hotel management to prove his clients were in the establishment.

Tuburan-bound
Last Wednesday morning, Ellah’s blanket-wrapped body was found in Barili, at the bottom of a cliff.
At 3 p.m. on that day, Esdrelon said they rented a blue Toyota Vios, which they used to drive to Tuburan.
Senior Supt. Erson Digal, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office, said the Cebu Provincial Anti-Criminality Task Force will meet Monday to discuss what cases to file against the couple.
The victim’s father, Renante Pique, heaved a sigh of relief when the witnesses pointed to the couple from behind a one-way mirror Sunday.
“Migaan-gaan akong paminaw (I feel a little bit relieved),” Renante told reporters at the Cebu Provincial Police Office in Sudlon, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.
Renante, together with Calajo-an Elementary School principal Jenelyn Craste, went to the police camp yesterday after learning that a Cebuana, who hails from Tuburan town, and a Norwegian were arrested.

Identification
While watching the suspects being identified by the witnesses, he said, he went cold and wanted to confront the couple.
“Nindot gyud unta dapatan pero wa man gud nay labot sa proceso (I want to hit them but I know that is not part of the process),” he said.
He said that before heading to the police headquarters Sunday, he asked Ellah Joy’s spirit to help the witnesses identify her captors.
Renante said it is still hard for him to accept that Ellah Joy is dead.
Lucia Habasa, Ellah Joy’s 53-year-old grandmother, said she learned about the suspects’ arrest last Saturday night.
Habasa, who supervises the coop-operated canteen at the Air Transportation Office in Mactan, said she has been praying for the arrest of the suspects.
She is optimistic the police arrested the right suspects, after they were identified by the witnesses.

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