Trude Espas was a 20 year old Norwegian woman with a summer job near Geiranger on Geirangerfjord, Norway.
Wednesday 7th August 1996 Ms Espas was sitting on a rock near the road that runs around the north eastern shore of the fjord. It was a lovely day. Witnesses say she was reading a book. The time was about 5pm when she was seen by a Swedish couple as they walked by. They walked back past the spot almost an hour later and Ms Espas was no longer there.
One of the pair stepped into the trees to urinate. Both witnesses heard a scream. He went up a nearby track and thought he saw an adult and a child playing, so thinking all was well the couple went on their way.
Later the man gave a description from which this sketch was drawn:
On 8th August Ms Espas was reported missing. She had been working at a place called the Union Hotel and so when she did not turn up for work alarm bells were raised. The village of Geiranger today only has about 250 people resident there. In the summer, due to the incredible beauty of the area, several thousand people can be staying there or passing through.
Once the searches started, and concern grew, the local police would have been under huge pressure. Every day witnesses would have been lost and not just into Norway but because of the tourist aspect people would disperse all over Europe.
It was 11 days before Ms Espas was found. She was only 20 metres from where the adult and child had been seen playing. She had been raped and strangled. Looking back, and trying to be fair, I take it that as the search started the Swedish couple would have had no idea their presence could have been crucial. After all the search, if they heard of it at the time, was for a young adult. Sadly it appears that they were right there and in a position to save Ms Espas’ life without any idea that they needed to intervene.
Clues In The Notes Of The Victim
When her room was searched they found many random notes written by Trude Espas. Among them was a notation mentioning a German and crutches. This has led to a theory that the attacker may have been using crutches or had been pretending to have a disability. Ted Bundy did similar in that he pretended to have a broken arm and asked victims for help moving items. That seems like a sound theory.
As the focus was on a German attacker, on the 20th anniversary a reconstruction was broadcast on German TV. This resulted in a photograph being sent in.
In The Final Analysis 25 Years Has Gone By With Little Progress
I’d like to know if Ms Espas could speak German but not for example English. It always concerns me if any significant fact is heavily relied on. What if German was a common language for the attacker and Ms Espas?
If that was the case then all the appeals for a German, even if a subject looked like the sketch, could have led nowhere because they were looking for the wrong nationality.
It is just a thought. It just seems strange that a crutch using German would not have been seen more by witnesses around the point where Ms Espas disappeared. Of course it is possible for several elements to have been wrong that prevented witnesses from coming forward. I would just hate to think the attacker was a German speaking Englishman or Frenchman etc and so was never connected to this crime.
Back then there was not the same level of free movement in Europe. That came in within a decade and onwards. The cops collected information as to who had been in the district from wherever they could. They traced witnesses across almost 40 countries and got nowhere. They looked for the man on crutches in the image yet did not find him. They also acknowledged the obvious. How could a man without a lower leg, on crutches, overpower a young woman like Trude Espas?
I would argue that if he had enticed her into the vegetation he could have done this easily. I mean she would have been distracted perhaps. He then fell on her and used his body weight and determination to incapacitate her. I can’t argue that as the witness heard the scream and walked so he could see the child and adult playing. He then relieved himself and looked again. They had gone.
The man on crutches could have threatened her and rolled them both out of sight of course but no more noise or trace was observed by the witness and he left believing all was well. If it was not for the fact her body was close by I would think the child and adult sighting was unrelated to the crime.
It just strikes me that Ms Espas was sitting on a rock and reading. This sounds like someone passing the time until a companion arrives. The note about a man on crutches could have been a reminder to her to expand some experience later into a memory in a diary or something. He might have had nothing to do with the murder. If that was the case then the search would have put off anyone suggesting a man without crutches. It was the case in the hunt for Roy Tutill’s killer. In an article on his murder I explore how the certainty about one sighting can totally derail an investigation.
As always it is the cops that have the files and my thoughts are merely that. I hope that something shakes loose. Whoever killed this poor young woman has no right to ever relax about it.
lifeinnorway.net ( I have noticed a lot of links want to then publish their entire article if I hyperlink them. So when they do that I will just list the source instead)