Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Unusually high number of homicides in 2017 a cause for concern

By Staff

  • Police Four people were killed in 2017 in Iceland. Two women and two men. Two of the victims were foreign nationals. Two of the attackers were also foreign nationals. All the attackers were male. Photo/Vísir

More murders were committed in Iceland in 2017 than any time since 2004. Last year four people, two men and two women, were murdered. In recent years the murder rate has been 1-2 people each year. 

Low murder rate in international comparison
Helgi Gunnlaugsson, a criminologist at the University of Iceland, told the local TV station Stöð 2 that the increase in murders last year was a worrying development, as it brought the murder rate in Iceland closer to that of the other Scandinavian countries. 

With four homicides last year the murder rate was 1.18 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is significantly under the rate for Europe (3 for 100,000 inhabitants in 2015) or the United States (4.88 for 100,000 inhabitants in 2015). However, a rate of 1.18 is higher than most other Nordic Countries, where the murder rate has been between 0.9 and 1.6. Historically Iceland has had a murder rate significantly below the other Nordic Countries.

An spike in 2017
A total of 36 homicides have been committed in Iceland since 2000. An unusually high number of murders were committed in the first years of the decade, including a record number of five homicides in 2004. Since then the numbers have dropped to 1-2 homicides per year. The average number has been 2.11 per year since 2000 for an average murder rate of 0.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Four people were the victims of intentional homicide in 2017. The tragic case of Birna Brjánsdóttir, a 20 year old girl who was abducted and murdered by a crew member of a Greenlandic trawler in January received international attention. The attacker, a Greenlandic national Thomas Møller Olsen has been sentenced to 19 years in prison.

Read more: Thomas Møller Olsen sentenced to 19 years in prison for murder of Birna Brjánsdóttir, drug smuggling

A second murder, which was committed in June involved several people with long criminal histories and is believed to be connected to power struggles within the Reykjavík criminal underworld. The victim was 39 year old Arnar Jónsson. The attacker was sentenced to six years in prison.

Read more: What we know of the attackers in the Reykjavík underworld murder

A third murder was committed in September when a Yemeni asylum seeker killed a Latvian woman who lived in Iceland. The attacker had stalked the victim after she had rejected his romantic advances. The victim was 44 year old Sanita Braune. The attacker has been in custody since the night of the attack, awaiting trial.

Read more: Suspect confesses to September Hagamelur murder: Deadly attack with fire extinguisher

The fourth homicide this year took place in December when a young local man attacked two Albanian men, seemingly without cause. One man died in the attack, 20 year old Klevis Sula. The attacker is in custody, awaiting trial.

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