Police Close Scandinavian Star Arson Case
Police in Norway have concluded that contrary to recent claims, there is no evidence that the fatal fire on the Scandinavian Star was an act of arson. No charges will be filed against her crew for the blaze, which killed 159 people during a regular run the night of April 7, 1990.
The announcement closes a two year follow-up investigation by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and brings the possibility of criminal proceedings to an end. During the review, experts working for the police – including two men involved in the original investigation – examined a second set of fires that occurred 12 hours after the first, deadly blaze, with an aim to determine whether these were set intentionally. They concluded that residual heat from the first fire ignited flammable materials later on, and that there was no evidence of arson.
The case was reopened on a petition by survivors' families and support groups; the most prominent of the groups did not return a local paper's requests for comment.
While the criminal inquest is finished, a civil commission of inquiry is still looking into the cause of the fires. The commission is following up on allegations lodged by one of the officials involved in the original investigation some 26 years ago, Mr. Flemming Thue Jensen, who claims that three members of the crew were responsible for setting sequential fires on board. In a press conference in February, Jensen said that the case should be as easy as “bicycle theft” for authorities to solve. “If the police had spoken to us and investigated the case more thoroughly, the case would have been resolved in 1990,” he told local media.
Jensen described evidence from the fire that he said could only be deliberately arranged by individuals with detailed knowledge of the vessel's interior. Specifics included a door blocked open on the car decks to allow more air in for the flames and a bent hydraulic line dripping flammable oil onto mattresses laid out below.
Jensen declined to cooperate with police investigators, but he met with the commission of inquiry. Its report is expected in June of next year, when the two-decade saga of the Scandinavian Star will finally draw to a close.