Saturday, April 02, 2005

Ikke et Ord om Andersen 

Today is Hans Christian Andersen's 200th birthday. That is, it's the bicentennial of his birth.

As the most universally recognized Dane in history—or at least a close second to Hamlet—Andersen excites a wild fervor in his countrymen. As your preferred source for Danish news, I have almost certainly let you down by neglecting to mention the scope of the Andersen until now. I mean, the scope of the event. I blame the psychological process of denial.

If you're really interested, a Google news search on "andersen birthday" will provide you with all that you ever wanted to know, and then some, about Andersen himself, the various festivals being held in his honor, and so on.

My favorite is a local (Frederiksberg) high school (gymnasium) revue entitled "Ikke et ord om Andersen." That's Danish for "Not a Word about Andersen," and the title alone should make it a big hit this Andersen.

I mean this weekend.

While the pope lay Andersening in his Vatican apartment, Copenhagen was kicking off its mammoth Andersenpalooza with a celebrity-studded Andersen of Andersen Andersen Andersen. It made for some surreal channel-surfing Andersen last night.

I hope those of you outside of Andersen who have come to depend on me for Andersen about Andersen will forgive my having Andersened Andersen for so Andersen. I will do my utmost to Andersen more Andersen in the Andersen.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Cherchez the Jag 

It just gets better and better. I'm now going to translate an entire Politiken article on the fly. I apologize in advance for the shoddy quality. First the Danish, then the English. (I'm going to translate idiomatically rather than literally so that English language readers have a better chance of understanding that, for example, the lead "person of interest" hasn't been buried alive.)

Politiet leder efter en mand fra Sudan

Politiet har nu offentliggjort, at de leder efter en 27-årig sudansk født mand i forbindelse med drabssagen fra Adelgade. Han er »nøglen« til at komme videre, siger politiet.

Af Søren Kitaj

Det er en 27-årig sudansk født mand, som politiet nu eftersøger i forbindelse med den bestialske drabssag fra Adelgade i København.

»Han er nøglen til, at vi kan komme videre med sagen«, siger kriminalinspektør Ove Dahl.

Manden har de sidste par måneder boet i den lejlighed Adelgade 63, hvor politiet mener, at drabet er blevet begået.

Taler flydende dansk

Den eftersøgte har boet i Danmark så længe, at han taler flydende dansk.

Han er sort af hudfarve og går blandt sine venner og bekendte under navnet 'jaguar'.

Derfor er det 'jaguar', der er blevet offentliggjort frem for mandens navn, oplyser politiet.

Via den 27-åriges omgangskreds har politiet fundet ud af, at manden godt ved, han er efterlyst. Nu håber de, at efterlysningen vil appellere til ham om at melde sig eller udløse et tip.

Sunket i jorden

I onsdags, hvor gerningsstedet for mordet, blev fundet, var politiet tæt på den efterlyste.

»Siden er han som sunket i jorden«, siger Ove Dahl, der oplyser, at den eftersøgte har en andel i drabet, men at det endnu ikke er sikkert, hvilken andel.

Politiet har talt med eftersøgt kvinde

Politiet har tidligere offentliggjort, at de leder efter flere mænd og en kvinde.

Men nu har politiet talt med den kvinde, der har været den formelle lejer af lejligheden, og hun er nu ikke længere interessant i forhold til drabssagen, siger Ove Dahl, der understreger, at næste skridt i efterforskningen er, at finde 'jaguar'.

Motivet ukendt

Politiet er ikke kommet nærmere et motiv til drabet og den efterfølgende partering af liget.

Man ved, at Torben Vagn Knudsen kom en del i det københavnske værtshusmiljø og til tider var på druktur.

»Han blev anderledes, når han blev rigtigt fuld. Den side af hans personlighed blomstrede, når alkoholpromillen steg. Men vi har ikke noget, der tyder på, at han var voldelig«, siger vicekriminalinspektør Magnus Andresen til Ritzau.

Politiet fortsætter med at lede inden for landets grænser, men vil dog blive udvidet, hvis det bliver nødvendigt.


Police Seek a Man from Sudan

The police have now gone public that they're seeking a 27-year-old Sudanese-born man in relationship with the killing case on Adelgade. He is "the key" to proceed further, say the police.

By Søren Kitaj

It's a 27-year-old Sudanese-born man that police now seek in relation to the bestial killing case on Adelgade in Copenhagen.

"He is the key to our being able to get further with the case," says crime inspector Ove Dahl.

The man has lived for the last few months in the apartment at Adelgade 63, where the police believe that the killing was undertaken.

Speaks Fluent Danish

The man being sought has lived in Denmark so long that he speaks fluent Danish.

He is black of skin color and goes among his friends and acquaintances under the name 'Jaguar.'

Therefore, say police, it's 'Jaguar' that's been publicly put forth as the man's name.

Via the 27-year-old's circle the police have discovered that the man knows well that he's being sought. Now they hope that the call for a search will appeal to him to turn himself in or trigger a tip.

Gone from the Face of the Earth

On Wednesday, when the murder scene was found, the police were close to the sought man.

"Since than he's disappeared from the face of the earth," says Ove Dahl, who reports that the sought man has a part in the killing, but that it's not yet certain which part.

Police Have Spoken with the Sought Woman

The police earlier made public that they were seeking several men and a woman.

But now the police have spoken with the woman, who was the formal renter of the apartment, and she is now of no further interest in relation to the killing case, says Ove Dahl, who underscores that the next step in the investigation is to find "Jaguar."

Motive Unknown

The police haven't come closer to a motive to the killing and the subsequent dismemberment of the body.

One knows that Torben Vagn Knudsen was a part of the Copenhagen pub scene and sometimes went on drunken binges.

"He was different when he got really drunk. That side of his personality blossomed when the alcohol level rose. But we have nothing at all that suggests that he was violent," says Vice Criminal Inspector Magnus Andresen to Ritzau [news agency].

The police continue to search within the country's borders, but will certainly look outwards, if it becomes necessary.

I may or may not comment on all this later... Molli is crawling dangerously near bad stuff right now... But come on. A Sudanese guy named Jaguar? A victim who went on drunken binges? A woman whose apartment was used to kill and dismember a man, but is of no interest to the police? It's good stuff!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Journalism with Nosser 

It really does seem like this whole grisly Copenhagen murder investigation was conjured by Agatha Christie.

First an innocent passer-by takes a second look at what a few previous passers-by have assumed to be "mannequin parts" in a dumpster, and discovers there's nothing artificial about them. Two human legs and an arm.

The next day the police find other body parts in the area, eventually the head. To help them identify the victim, police distribute a photograph of the severed head. (To ease the public's discomfort, the head in the photo is surrounded with clean sheets—but the eyes are open.)

Information begins poring in. They apparently get a lead, and confirm the identity with dental records. The guy's a taxi driver. Witnesses step forward to say they saw the man leaving a bar on Gothersgade at about three a.m. Easter morning accompanied by two other men. News reports alternately identify those two as "An American and a Danish-speaking Asian," and "an English-speaking man and an Asian-looking, Danish-speaking man."

According to the most recent report, linked above, witnesses have now also stepped forward to say they recognize the man as having buzzed someone up at the entrance to an apartment building on Adelgade. Accompanied by a locksmith, police went to the apartment building with the intention of examining every apartment therein for evidence. And they found it: a ground floor apartment, according to Chief Inspector Ove Dahl, "showed signs of a killing having occured there." The investigation continues.

An interesting linguistic observation: I still haven't seen the crime referred to as a murder (et mord). It's always et drab, which translates to a death or a killing. The act that took Mr. Torben Vagn Knudsen's life is always some form of the verb at dræbe, which is simply to kill.

It may be that a killing is not called a murder in the press until an inquest has established the fact, but if that's the case then Danish journalists are among the most fastidiously precise in the world. With all due respect to the notion of innocence before the law until proven guilty, it's pretty hard to imagine that a guy could accidentally get stabbed repeatedly (and beaten, if his photograph is anything to go by), then cut up into little pieces and distributed around the city. Or even that it could happen in such a way that the perpetrator(s) would be guilty only of manslaughter (manddrab).

It's also worth wondering what it means that the Danish press had no qualms splashing pictures of this guy's severed head all over their front pages to help the police with their investigation. I think it's a good thing, in that it's going to help solve a crime. But I can imagine the American outrage: disrespect to the victim! Pain for his family! Shocks and horrors for the poor oversensitive souls who might inadvertently see the photo while waiting in a checkout line!

I wonder if all those American networks that thought it was so important to keep showing footage of Abu Ghraib would have the nosser (translation presumably unnecessary) to show a severed head—"tastefully," of course, as here—to help police with a murder investigation.

I doubt it, and that's sad. I hate to think we've let the delicate sensibilities of our oversensitive public interfere with our ability to solve and prosecute crimes... but if the exposure of a breast during the Super Bowl halftime show can cause such a monstrous fuss, I can't even begin to imagine what a severed head would do.

A lot of American conservatives would probably agree with me on the severed head but not the heinous nipple, because broadcasting the head is for the good of the community, in that it solves a crime, whereas the nipple is bad, in that it degrades the community's moral fiber (or something).

Anyway, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for a mustachioed Belgian with an egg-shaped skull in the neighborhood of Kongens Nytorv... (or a feathery old woman in a lavender shawl).

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Body Parts Update 

The body-parts man has been identified, according to Berligske Tidende, as a 41-year-old Copenhagen man whose name is being withheld for the time being. He was identified by his teeth. The police are now concentrating on the scene of the crime, motive, and possible suspects. Investigators will be speaking to the victim's family, friends, and co-workers.

Strange, but when I first read that "41-year-old man" bit I visualized someone much older than myself—but body-parts man and I could have been in the same damn class in high school. I can't help thinking some little Molli somewhere in this town is never going to see her father again, and that some day she's going to grow up and learn that her father was dismembered and distributed throughout the city just as she was learning to crawl. (His other parts were found yesterday or the day before, but I neglected to mention that here.) I hope he didn't have any kids. I hope he was just some scumbag heroin dealer who tried to rip off his gangster bosses. Probably he was the kind of guy who went around kicking dogs and laughing too loud at his own unfunny jokes. The kind of guy who's always looking at people and saying, "You got a problem?" I hope so. I don't want to think that a friendly, well-meaning, hard-working guy could just suddenly turn up in a dozen pieces. Not in Copenhagen.

Having Molli doesn't actually change things the way I had thought it might—but it sure as hell changes how I think about them.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

They May Be on to Something... 

According to a big story off Politiken's website (I haven't turned on the TV yet, so I don't know how much TV coverage it's getting), a couple of severed legs and a severed arm were discovered in a Copenhagen dumpster on Saturday morning.

The stunner about this story is Politiken's assertion that "Politiet frygter, at der ligger en forbrydelse bag det uhyggeligt fund." Which means (and I'm translating as carefully and literally as possible), "The police fear that there lies a crime behind the creepy find." Really! An inset to the article makes the same astonishing assertion: "Vicekriminalkommissær John Lorentzen: Vi frygter, at der er tale om en forbrydelse." Which means, "Assistant Crime Commissioner John Lorentzen: We fear, that there is some talk of a crime."

According to the article (available only in the Danish, alas), area residents first concluded that a mannequin had been tossed in the dumpster. "Only when a local resident looked closer at the body parts, was there talk of limbs that had been severed from a human body."

According to the aforementioned Lorentzen, head of the investigation, the body parts certainly didn't come from a hospital. "The cuts and wounds on the limbs don't suggest this happened in a hospital setting," he observed.

Am I misreading this, or is the implication supposed to be that it would have been better if this had been the result of a state-run hospital cutting corners with its amputated limb disposal?

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