OSLO, Norway – One of the longest, highest-profile manhunts in Norwegian history may have succeeded Friday when police arrested a suspect they call "The Pocket Man" in the sexual abuse of 300 to 400 young boys over three decades.
Police said the suspect, identified only as a 55-year-old businessman from the western city of Bergen, was linked to five of the assaults through his DNA and that they expected to prove more cases.
"The Pocket Man has finally be captured," Arne Joergen Olafsen, chief of police in the southeastern Norway town of Ski, at a news conference. "This is a relief for many, including the police."
The Lommemannen — or "The Pocket Man" — name stems from the man cutting off the bottoms of his pants pockets so they would be open. He then traveled the country, and induced young boys, all between age six and 12, to reach into a pocket on the pretense of helping him find an object.
According to Norway's largest newspaper, Verdens Gang, he sometimes filed his pockets with sticky tape hoping the boys' hands would become stuck.
In 2000, police began publishing appeals for tips, police artist drawings of possible suspects and grainy photos taken from surveillance cameras. The national crime police established a special "Pocket Man" Internet site providing and seeking information about what they said were 300-400 assaults.
At the news conference, police said a breakthrough in case came as a tip from a retired Bergen police officer, but gave no more details.
Norwegian news media described the suspect, whose name was withheld, as a wealthy, divorced father of grown children.
Police said they now believe the assaults started in 1976 and 1977. The suspect traveled through southern and western Norway, and varied the sites at which he abused the boys, including at swimming pools, public toilets and even at road intersections.
Olafsen said that geographic randomness meant each assault was reported to a different police station. It was not until the search was coordinated nationally that police saw the scope of the serial assault.
Police were seeking a court order Monday to hold the man for four weeks pending investigation and possible indictment. If convicted, the maximum sentence would normally be 15 years in prison, although that could be extended to 21 years if a court deems the abuse especially grave.