Thomas Møller Olsen, who last year was sentenced to nineteen years in prison for drug smuggling and the murder of Birna Brjánsdóttir, is pleading his innocence in Iceland’s recently established 'Land's Court,' or court of appeals, RÚV reports. Olsen is petitioning for his sentence to be reduced, redirecting the blame for Birna’s murder to his shipmate.
Opening remarks started last week. In his statement, Olsen’s defense attorney, Björgvin Jónsson, said that the prosecution’s statement of offense is so open and general that it would prove hard to defend in court. He criticized and cast doubt upon the prosecution’s interpretations of the case, as well as the aspects of it that they emphasized, such as how Birna’s body made it into the sea. He also questioned the evidence that was used to convict his client.
Twenty-year-old Birna Brjánsdóttir disappeared on Saturday morning, January 14th, after a night out. The case shook the entire Icelandic nation, prompting the most extensive search in Iceland’s history, involving over eight hundred people. Eight days after her disappearance, Birna’s body was found naked on the beach near Selvogsviti lighthouse, on the Reykjanes peninsula in South-West Iceland. Olsen’s sentence is longer than typical: The penalty framework for manslaughter in Iceland is life imprisonment, although sentences almost never surpass 16 years in prison. The smuggling of drugs is punishable by up to 12 years.
Olsen has continually tried to cast the blame for Birna’s death on his shipmate. In her statement, state prosecutor Sigríður Friðjónsdóttir called the defendant’s contention that his crewmate was responsible for the murder was “absurd.” His crewmate would have only had twenty minutes to drive to where Birna was abducted in downtown Reykjavík, force her into the back of his car, remove her clothing and dispose of it, and then force her into the sea in the southern part of the Suðurnes peninsula. If that scenario wasn’t unlikely enough, he would have also had to do this, she said, while extremely drunk and without having ever held a driver’s license.