Local author helps you pronounce all those impossible Icelandic place names
Yesterday a district judge extended the custody of a 30 year old Greenlandic sailor, Thomas Frederik Møller Olsen, who is accused of the brutal murder of local 20 year old girl on January 14. Local media has covered the case, which has gripped the Icelandic nation, in detail, piecing together the events of the fateful night leading to Birna's death. The local TV station Stöð 2 has acquired the ruling of the district judge in the case, which reveals significant new details about the findings of the police investigation.
Missing from January 14 to January 22
Birna Brjánsdóttir disappeared on Saturday January 14. She was last seen on surveillance video in the centre of Reykjavik, just before 5:30, as she was walking along Laugavegur street. Eight days later, on January 22, her body was found on a rocky beach near Selvogsvita lighthouse on the south coast of Reykjanes peninsula.
On January 19 a 30 year old Greenlandic crew member of the trawler Polar Nanoq, Thomas Frederik Møller Olsen, was arrested on suspicion of being responsible for Birna’s disappearance, and on March 30 he was charged with murder in the first degree.
Red Kia Rio
From the earliest stages of the investigation the focus was on a red Kia Rio Birna was seen entering on Laugavegur. Police quckly found that Thomas had rented this car on Friday, January 13th at a local car rental.
Early Saturday morning that he picked up a second crew member of Polar Nanoq at a bar in downtown Reykjavík. This second crew member was severely intoxicated at the time. He was originally suspected of having been involved in Birna’s death and arrested along with Thomas, but police later released this second crew member.
A fabricated story
During interrogation Thomas claimed he had picked up two girls in downtown Reykjavík. He recognized Birna from photos, admitting she was one of the two girls, but was unable to provide information on the second female. The other crew member initially corroborated Thomas’ story of two girls, but later said he could only be sure of one girl entering the car, explaining that Thomas had made efforts to confuse him on this issue. Police has determined the story of the second girl is a fabrication.
Using cell phone data Police is able to trace the route taken by the car from down town Reykjavík to Hafnarfjörður where the trawler was harboured.
Claims he only kissed Birna
A surveillance video from the harbour shows Thomas and the second man exiting the car by the trawler at 5:55, the second crew member boarding the trawler. He said during interrogation that he saw a girl lying in the back seat of the car when left the vehicle.
Surveillance video shows Thomas driving the car to a second area on the harbour, where he is seen getting into the back seat. It is impossible to see from the surveillance tape what happens in the car. The video shows the windows are steamed up.
During interrogation Thomas admitted that he went into the back seat, claiming that there were two girls in the car and that he “among other things, kissed her.”
50 minutes, brutal assault
The surveillance video shows that Thomas spent 50 minutes in the car. It is during this time that police believes he attacked her. The police report describes the injuries Birna sustained before she died:
"A forensic study shows that she sustained severe injuries to her head and face, and that she must have lost significant amounts of blood sustaining these injuries. […] she had severe bruises on her throat suggesting she had been strangled with significant force. […]"
After having spent 50 minutes in the car, Thomas is seen returning to the driver’s seat, and then driving off. Birna's shoes were later found near the location where the car had been parked. Traces of Birna's skin were found on the shoelaces.
During interrogation Thomas claimed he had dropped Birna, and the second girl he claims was in the car, off at a roundabout near the highway leading to Keflavík airport.
Birna was unconcious after attack, cause of death was drowning
Thomas claims that he then parked in front of a nearby Reebok Fitness Centre where he says he napped in the parking lot. Neither Thomas nor the red Kia Rio which he was driving show up on surveillance video from the fitness centre parking lot. The police report states:
“The suspect has failed to give a credible explanation of where he was between 7 AM and 11 AM in the morning of Saturday.”
Police believes that during this time Thomas drove to the south of Reykjanes peninsula, where he dumped Birna into the water near Selvogsviti lighthouse. At the time Birna was still alive. The autopsy showed that the cause of death was drowning.
Bought cleaning supplies: large quantities of blood in car
At 10:30 Thomas bought cleaning products at a supermarket and then returned to the harbour where security video shows him spending about 40 minutes cleaning the car, spending most of the time in the back seat. Forensic investigation of the car showed large amounts of blood in the car. Thomas claims that he was cleaning vomit out of the car.
"Forensic study shows that there were significant quantities of blood in the back seat of the car, and beneath the back seat. There were splatters of blood in various places inside the car, and remains of blood on the steering wheel. Analysis shows the blood came from Birna.“
After cleaning the car Thomas is seen taking a large black trash bag on-board the trawler. Police searched the trawler on January 19, discovering Birna’s driving license in a large black trash bag on the deck of the trawler. Thomas’ fingerprint was found on the driver’s license. He has been unable to explain why and how the driver’s license found its way on-board the trawler. The police report continues:
“Birna‘s blood was also found on the defendant‘s jacket and analysis of his other clothing which had recently been washed, show that the clothing had been in contact with large quantities of blood.”
Thomas Møller has continued to deny the charges. If he is found guilty he is looking at 20 years in prison.
Iceland Magazine coverage of the case
Iceland magazine covered the case in detail as it unfolded in January. You can read our previous coverage here:
Tuesday April 25
Suspect to remain in custody until May 23
Tuesday April 11
Thomas Møller could get 20 years in prison.
Monday April 10
The details of the charge against Thomas Møller revealed
Friday Mar 31
Thomas Møller is formally charged with the murder of Birna Brjánsdóttir
Tuesday Feb 7
Thomas Møller had previously been acquitted of raping an unconscious woman in Greenland
The cause of death, other disturbing details about Birna's death revealed.
Monday Feb 6
Police has reportedly pieced together what happened on Saturday January 14.
Search for clues near the place where Birna's body was found turns up empty
Thursday Feb 2
Police now believes only one of the men originally arrested on connection to Birna's disappearance is responsible for her death.
Monday Jan 30:
Thousands participate in a memorial service for Birna
Wednesday Jan 25:
More details emerge of what happened during the hours leading up to Birna's disappearance
Tuesday Jan 24:
Police found Birna's ID on board the Greenlandic trawler.
The identity of the two suspects revealed by local media.
Monday Jan 23:
Many unanswered questions despite the discovery of Birna's body
Sunday Jan 22:
Birna's body was found eight days after she was discovered missing.
Friday Jan 20
More details about the drug find on-board the Greenlandic trawler.
Police believes the two men held in custody are responsible for the murder of Birna.
Greenlandic Foreign Minister postpones visit to Norway while the search for Birna continues.
Thursday Jan 19
Police discover large quantities of drugs on-board the trawler, arresting a fourth man.
Police reveals that evidence from the a red Kia Rio the sailors had rented from Friday to Saturday pointed to a violent crime.
More arrests on-board the ship, which arrived in harbour at 23:07 on Wednesday
Wednesday Jan 18
Police arrested two men on board the trawler.
Police officers and members of the Police Special Forces were flown out to the Danish Coast Guard vessel HDMS Triton which was on intercept course with the Polar Nanoq.
The case has gripped the Icelandic nation. Police warns people to avoid of "hysteria".
Security camera footage from Hafnarfjörður harbour shows crew members exiting the red Kia Rio, behaving suspiciously. The trawler was returned to harbour in Reykjavík.
Tuesday Jan 17
The car was linked to crew members of Greenlandic trawler which had been docked in Hafnarfjörður from Wednesday to Saturday. The trawler had sailed out and was fishing off the east coast of Greenland.
Tuesday afternoon Police found what it believes is the red Kia Rio seen in security camera footage just seconds before she was last spotted on CCTV footage in down town Reykjavík. The car was likely driven by foreign nationals. The driver is seen behaving suspiciously shortly after Birna's cell phone is turned off at 5:50 AM.
Shoes which match those worn by Birna were found early Tuesday morning in Hafnafjörður, south of Reykjavík. Police does not rule out the shoes were planted at the scene. All available Police and Search and Rescue members are searching in and around Hafnafjörður harbour.
Police released CCTV footage of Birna walking in downtown Reykjavík on Monday.
Monday Jan 16
A large scale search had been underway since Saturday for 20 year old local woman. Police feared foul play.
Join our weekly hand curated newsletter to have all the latest news from Iceland sent to you
Don't worry, we won't spam you. Promise!