Retired police officer believes Norwegian police efforts in Laos murder case shows inexperience

Øyvind Olsen worked for many years with international police work. Now he is retired. PHOTO: HILDE BJØRNSKAU / NRK

The retired police officer Øyvind Olsen, who played an important role in the murder case of Norwegian Nerid Høiness, believes that the Norwegian police lack the experience required in an international murder case, NRK writes.

Øyvind Olsen was contacted early on by Assistance lawyer Sidsel Katralento to assist in the search for Japanese Ogu ‘Hiro’ Hiroyuki who is suspected of the murder of Nerid Høiness in Laos in January last year. According to a recent press release, Ogu ‘Hiro’ Hiroyuk was found and arrested in Laos on 20 November, almost 10 months after the murder took place.

Øyvind Olsen has extensive experience with international police work. He has been a liaison for the Nordic police in both Pakistan and London and led UN investigations in Rwanda, East Timor, and Afghanistan. Throughout his career, Øyvind Olsen, who is now retired, has built up a network of police officers abroad. He used these to get information about where Hiroyuki was.

According to Olsen, he perceived the Nordic liaison officer in Bangkok as uncooperative while he also believes that the international police organization Interpol is too slow and describes the organization as a “mailbox”. He points out that Interpol’s search for Hiroyuki only reached the Thai police in Bangkok, where Interpol has its offices in Thailand and not the island of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan where Hiroyuki was reported seen several times. 

When asked if he believes Hiroyuki would have been arrested if he had not assisted in the case he answers that although it might be a bit hypothetical, he does not believe much would have happened so “I do not think so,” he answers.

According to Assistance lawyer Sidsel Katralen, Olsen’s work was important in finding Hiroyuki.

“When you get such a serious case in a country that is so foreign to us, you can not just sit back. You have to use all your imagination and all the detective work you have at your disposal to get to the finish line,” she says to NRK.

Now the authorities in Laos will handle the further legal process, according to the laws of the country.

Section leader Knut Erik Ågrav at Sørøst police district in Norway does not want to comment on Olsen’s allegations directly. To NRK he says that Nerid Høiness’s relatives have contributed their own information in the case, and received help from Olsen and development assistance lawyer Katralen for this.

“The police have been familiar with this along the way and it is great if some of this work has contributed to the suspect now being arrested,” he says.

The Norwegian police have used Kripos’ international expertise and international cooperation agreements in the murder case, he explains and adds that in retrospect, there are always things that can be streamlined and improved, and that is certainly the case in this case as well. 

Ågrav adds that international police cooperation can be challenging, partly due to various laws and regulations, and the fact that Laos has the death penalty was basically also a challenge for the Norwegian police’s assistance in finding the man.

According to Amnesty political adviser Gerald Folkvord however, no one has been executed in Laos since 1989 and in practice, a death sentence is a life sentence in the country, he says.

“You can be sentenced to death for murder in Laos, but it is very unlikely that you will actually be executed,” he says and adds:

“Norwegian authorities must cooperate, but must also ensure that they do not contribute to human rights violations. But murder is a very serious crime, and the authorities have a job to do in helping to solve such crimes,” he says.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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