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Rare murder rocks popular tourist spot

Birna Brjansdottir was found dead on Sunday after an 8-day manhunt

A 20-year-old woman was found dead this week outside of Reykjavik, Iceland — a popular international tourist spot in a country that averages less than two homicides a year.

Birna Brjansdottir went missing on January 14, after attending a show at a Reykjavik music venue, and her body turned up on a beach south of the city eight days later — following a massive manhunt. She was seen alive walking alone, picked up by surveillance cameras at around 4 or 5 a.m., when she bought a kebab at a street vendor. Her shoes were later found in Hafnarfjörður, a port area which is not a particularly easy walking distance from Reykjavik. Once her shoes were discovered there, authorities became convinced that someone had driven her there.

Indeed, a car spotted in Reykjavik near where Brjansdottir was last seen was picked up on surveillance camera near a Greenlandic fishing boat in  Hafnarfjörður, in the same area where Brjansdottir’s shoes were found. Icelandic authorities now believe Brjansdottir was murdered in that car, which was rented by two Greenlandic sailors who are now in custody. Traces of Brjansdottir’s blood were found in the car.

The entire nation of Iceland has been gripped by the tragic and very unusual story. Reykjavik is widely considered to be one of the safest cities in the world with a remarkably low crime rate, which contributes to its appeal for young international travelers. Still, Reykjavik is known for a heavy drinking culture. According to the Guardian, alcohol and/or mental illness are often factors in the very rare homicides in Iceland.

Icelandic police said in a statement on Sunday that while Brjansdottir’s death was being treated as a murder, no cause of death has yet been determined.

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