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Murder verdict ends 17 years of ‘hell' for Norway family

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Murder verdict ends 17 years of ‘hell' for Norway family
Kristin Juel Johannessen left her house to go swimming with a friend. She never made it. Photo: Private/NTB Scanpix
10:42 CEST+02:00
The family of Kristin Juel Johannessen reacted with enormous relief when the jury announced that 40-year-old Henning Hotvedt was found guilty of murder for killing the then 12-year-old Kristin in 1999.
“It has been hell, to put it mildly. That's what we are trying to move forward from,” Roar Juel Johannessen told NTB after the jury had their say on Thursday afternoon.
 
A full 17 years after he was told that his 12-year-old daughter had been found dead not far from his own home, Johannessen said he just wants to put an end to the aspects part of the case. The loss of his daughter, however, is something he will never move past. 
 
“It was good to hear that he was found guilty. We expected it, but one can never be sure with a jury,” he said.
 
The victim's father, Roar Juel Johannessen, and sister, Linda Juel Johannessen. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix
The victim's father, Roar Juel Johannessen, and sister, Linda Juel Johannessen. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix
 
After more than three hours of deliberation, the ten members of the jury told the court that they believe the now 40-year-old Hotvedt is guilty of having killed the girl.
 
Hotvedt showed no emotion when he heard the verdict, although he has always maintained his innocence.
 
“He stands by what he has said the whole time and is obviously disappointed in the ruling,” his lawyer, Brynjar Meling, said. 
 
Kristin Juel Johannessen left her home in the Vestfold town of Larvik by bicycle at around 6pm on Thursday, August 5, 1999. She was supposed to meet a friend to go swimming. But Kristin never made it.
 
Around five hours after she left home, she was found murdered. The medical examiner concluded that she had been strangled, and that the perpetrator most likely strangled her with his own hands.
 
New DNA samples that matched the defendant's profile was key to the guilty verdict, prosecutor Alf Martin Evensen said.
 
 
“I think it's important for many people to reach a conclusion on this matter, which has been a sore spot for Larvik, the community, her family and others for 17 years,” he said. 
 
But the case isn't over just yet. Hotvedt faces sentencing next week and the long time that has passed since the murder will be a key issue. Defence attorney Meling said that he would push for the sentencing to be in line with punishment levels at the time of the murder rather than the longer sentences that are available under the law now. 
 
When Hotvedt was convicted in Larvik District Court in 2001, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, which Roar Juel Johannessen contends was far too mild. 
 
He argues that the long passage of time since the crime should result in a stricter sentence. 
 
“He's carried this for 17 years. It has worn us down and almost virtually destroyed our family,” he said. 
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