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Isdalsaken

Bergen Politikammers arkiv, sak 4968/70 A

Historien om Isdalskvinnen basert på de originale etterforskningsdokumentene.

Om Isdalsaken.no

 

Historien om den mystiske Isdalskvinnen begynte å ta form allerede mens saken var under etterforskning. Presseoppslag og rykter ble til myter. Mytene ble uløselig knyttet til historien, og for mange har de etter hvert blitt til vedtatte sannheter det er vanskelig å rokke ved.

 

Formålet her er ikke å bidra til å opprettholde spennende myter og en aura av mystikk, men derimot å presentere fakta. Under arbeidet med å skrive boken «Kvinnen i Isdalen» avfotograferte jeg politiets originale saksdokumenter, og det er utelukkende dette autentiske materialet jeg bruker som grunnlag for disse sidene.

 

isdalsaken.no gir kun en helt kortfattet kronologisk oversikt over enkelte sentrale hendelser knyttet til etterforskningen. Etter hvert som sidene oppdateres, blir de vanligste mytene og spekulasjonene kort omtalt og sammenholdt med fakta. Et begrenset utvalg av dokumenter og fotografier i saken vil etter hvert også bli presentert. Dermed kan sidene fungere både som et supplement til boken og en kilde for de som ønsker å gå tilbake til det originale etterforskningsmaterialet.

 

«Kvinnen i Isdalen» gir en svært omfattende og detaljert gjennomgang av både saken og en rekke nye funn. En omtale av boken finnes både i forlagets katalog over nye bøker for våren 2018 og på bokhandlernes egne sider.

 

På disse sidene vil det også bli presentert materiale som ikke er med i boken.

 

 

Bergen 1970

 

Den 29. november, en grå og kald dag i 1970, ble det forbrente liket av en død kvinne funnet på et bortgjemt sted i Isdalen ved Bergen. Dette ble starten på en omfattende etterforskning som ikke bare involverte politiet i Bergen, men også Kripos, Politiets overvåkingstjeneste, Interpol i en rekke land og til slutt også FBI.

 

Ingen visste hvem hun var, hvor hun kom fra eller hva hun gjorde. Kvinnen hadde oppgitt falske identiteter på sine reiser. Hun hadde benyttet parykker, det ble funnet en «hemmelig kode» og merkelapper som kunne identifisere gjenstander var i mange tilfeller fjernet. Ansatte ved hoteller kunne fortelle om en eksentrisk atferd og at hun hadde blitt sett sammen med «mystiske» menn. En drosjesjåfør som kanskje var den sist kjente som så henne i live, skal aldri ha blitt funnet. Det hadde blitt benyttet bensin på åstedet, men hva som egentlig skjedde i Isdalen ble aldri klarlagt. Konklusjonen ble at hun hadde tatt sitt eget liv, men flere etterforskere stilte spørsmål ved dette. Avisene kunne nesten daglig servere nye sensasjonelle overskrifter. Fakta ble blandet sammen, det ble spekulert og presentert «nyheter» som ikke hadde rot i virkeligheten.

 

Summary in English

 

On Sunday 29 November 1970, the charred remains of a young woman was discovered in the rugged terrain of the remote Isdal valley near the city of Bergen, Norway. Several objects, along with traces of petrol, were also found on the scene, giving investigators cause to suspect foul play. The woman’s identity was completely unknown to them, and they found no clues by which they could identify her. Her dental work pointed towards Asia, Middle- or Southern Europe. The autopsy showed that she had ingested a large amount of barbiturates, that she had a large haemorrhage on her neck, and that she was still alive at the time of the fire. The police concluded that it was a case of suicide.

 

Three days later, two suitcases are discovered in a locker at Bergen railway station. The police don’t know who owns them, but work off the theory that they might belong to the woman. Their contents raise more questions than answers. All the tags of the possessions have been removed. There are notes filled with sequences of numbers and letters that appear to be some sort of code, and there are clues that point to Geneva, London, Rome and Flensburg. Several items are sent off for fingerprint analysis by Kripos. A carrier bag from a shoe shop in Stavanger provides the first breakthrough.

 

 

It turns out a Belgian woman by the name of Fenella Lorck had been staying in Stavanger just before the dead body was discovered in Bergen. After receiving information about this woman’s mysterious behaviour, the Norwegian intelligence agency started taking an interest in the case. A warrant issued by Interpol sparked a search for her around large swathes of Europe. 18 November the woman had checked out and left town. After that, the trail goes cold.

 

Various witness observations lead the police on a wild goose chase, and there is widespread speculation in the media. Myths about the “Isdal woman” having been a secret agent or on the run from something starts taking a hold. Finally, the trail goes warm again. A handwriting comparison of foreigner arrival report forms from hotels all over Norway shows that not only has she stayed at various hotels around Bergen, but also in multiple locations across the country. She’s used a number of different identities and passport numbers that all turn out to be fake.

 

A set of fingerprints were lifted off a pair of sunglasses from one of the suitcases and turn out to be identical with those of the body, confirming that the suitcases did indeed belong to the dead woman. Another handwriting comparison confirms that this is the same woman who has been operating under false identities. The last name she used was Elisabeth Leenhouwfr on 19 November when she checked into Hotel Hordaheimen in Bergen.

 

The investigation is ramped up considerably. A string of hotel workers are questioned, and it turns out that she’s been in contact with various men. On the morning of 23 November, she was spotted with a man whilst exchanging currency at a bank. Half an hour later she checked out of her hotel, got in a taxi and disappeared. That was the last time she was observed alive.

 

Several witnesses say that they saw smoke emanating from the crime scene an hour and a half later. The taxi driver that took her there is traced down, but doesn’t remember anything.

 

A lady fitting the Isdal woman’s description was spotted with an Italian photographer at the village of Oppdal. She had been given a postcard featuring one of his photos. The same type of card was found inside one of the suitcases, a card that it seem had not been available for regular purchase. During questioning, the photographer says that the woman he “happened” to meet in Oppdal was “Chinese” and came from South-Africa. He gives the police a name and an address. After that discovery, the investigation inexplicably grinds to a halt.

 

This is where the author resumes the investigation. The “secret code” containing dates and places she had visited holds the key to several secrets. It exposes a pattern which, when combined with other pieces of information, shows that there is no truth to the speculations about espionage. The woman was a prostitute, and the police reports reveal that she was French. The book also documents that the claim that she used fake passports is unfounded.

 

The photographer’s statement is shown to contain both contradictions and lies. He had previously been charged with rape, threatening behaviour and violence. Statements by witnesses and technical findings all point to it being the same woman who was found murdered. It appears this was not a chance encounter, but rather that the two had been travelling together for some time. In order to better understand her story, the author traces the woman back to South Africa, but is met with a wall of silence.

 

 

A detailed timeline of her last days alive shows that she was in close contact with a man, and that this man was someone she knew. It also becomes clear that decisions about how long her hotel stays would last must have been made by others. A tube of ointment with a label that the police could never decipher, shows the name of a doctor she visited in Bergen. He was never found and never reported himself.

 

 

The events that took place after the woman left the hotel are revisited in great detail. “The code” shows that she had an appointment the same day, and that she would not have been able to get to the crime scene on her own. The findings there conclude that another person must have been present during the fire, and that some of her possessions have gone missing.

 

 

The police investigation is reviewed, and a number of leads that were never followed up on are pointed out.

 

The book contains a large amount of information that has not been divulged until now. It dispels a number of myths that have been kicking around since 1970, and shines a new light on the case.

 

"Forfatteren har gått gjennom politiets etterforskning dag for dag fram til saken ble henlagt og har selv etterforsket hele saken på nytt. Etter hvert blir det klart at politiet har oversett viktige spor underveis. En rekke nye opplysninger gir svar på hva kvinnen gjorde i Norge og hvordan hun døde. Denne intense beretningen gir et helt nytt bilde av den gåtefulle kvinnen i Isdalen". Forord av Gunnar Staalesen.

Boken er utgitt av / Publisher

Book review - "The Woman in Isdalen Valley"

 

Non-fiction

 

Dennis Zacher Aske - Vigmostad & Bjørke

 

 

 

The explanation seems so obvious that it’s astonishing that the police didn’t think of it.

Could the resolution to one of Norway’s biggest crime mysteries have been found among police documents all along?

By Sven Egil Omdal

The autumn of 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of a woman’s charred remains in a remote location outside of Bergen. Even though the police concluded the case to be a likely suicide, the mystery of the Isdalen woman is still powerful - not least because their conclusion seems to be erroneous.

Last week, the Norwegian broadcasting corporation (NRK) reported that they’ll be collaborating with BBC World Service on an international version of the Norwegian true crime podcast «The Isdalen Riddle» («Gåten i Isdalen»). And this week, a new book by a legal expert at the University of Stavanger comes closer to unravelling the mystery than ever before. In it, Dennis Zacher Aske launches a plausible theory as to the woman’s circumstances, and more than suggests who the killer was.

 

 

The police made an impressive effort to uncover the identity of the woman, who arrived in Bergen by hydrofoil boat on 18 November 1970 and checked into Hotel Rosenkrantz under the name of Elisabeth Leenhouwfr. In Stavanger she had stayed at Hotel St. Svithun as Fenella Lorck, but she’d also used other names, like Claudia Thielth, Claudia Nielsen, Genevieve Lancier and other aliases.

She switched between German, French, and English, and was observed with several men who never reported themselves to the police.

Her clothes had been stripped of any tags and identifiers, and the name on the labels of her medicine bottles had been scraped off. Somebody did not want her to be identified. 25 investigators worked for months before the case was concluded to be a likely suicide. This is the case file Dennis Zacher Aske has opened and studied. His eye for details and patterns is impressive, and he’s pieced together many of the clues in new ways. Among other things, he’s found a believable interpretation of the code which was found in one of the suitcases she left behind at the railway station in Bergen about an hour and a half before she passed away.

When Tore Osland, son of the chief investigator who worked on the case, released a fictional story about the woman from Isdalen, he said he was convinced she’d been a spy. The head of the intelligence agency in Bergen said that same year that he didn’t even want to reply to why he’d refused to comment on the case. Why would he say that, if the police still believed that the woman had attempted suicide by first ingesting pills before setting herself on fire?

Aske picks apart both the suicide and the spy theory. Instead he presents an explanation which is so obvious that it seems extraordinary the police hasn’t concluded the same. Maybe PST, the intelligence agency, will respond this time?

In order not to ruin the reader’s experience, Aske’s theory shall remain undivulged here. That also goes for his extensive investigation, which points to a person who probably was close to the woman, and who had previously been charged with rape and accused of violence.

It’s astonishing that the police didn’t follow up on this lead, since the clues were already to be found in the case file. Aske has kept the identity of the man hidden, but anyone with access to a digital news archive can easily find out who he was, or is. That’s an ethical dilemma which should have been discussed in the text.

The book is written as a sort of investigative report. First there’s 15 chapters summarising and combing through the police documents, including repetitions and red herrings, which give a more realistic picture of this type of investigation than any fictional narrative would provide.

Then follows Aske’s own investigation, also presented in a subdued, surgically precise tone. Only when he repeatedly shows how the famous crime reporter Knut Haavik from the newspaper VG led the public astray does he diverge from his normally tight composition.

Despite the lack of the ornate descriptions and hectic dramatisation of newspaper articles, Aske’s description is far more thrilling than any tabloid crime story.

 

Rettigheter

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Kilder

Der annet ikke er opplyst er kildematerialet hentet fra Statsarkivet i Bergen, Bergen politikammers arkiv, sak 4968/70 A (Isdalsaken) og Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste/POT

Dokumentene er fotografert av: isdalsaken.no

 

Isdalen og åstedet

Kontakt Isdalsaken.no

 
 
 

Åstedet 29. november 1970

Åstedet juni 2017. Bildet til høyre viser hvor bratt terrenget er. Svartediksvannet i bakgrunnen.

Foto: isdalsaken.no