Unsolved Mysteries: The Abduction and Murder of Emilie Meng
“It’s Korsør, Almost Nothing Happens Here”
Located on the west coast of Denmark, Korsør is a small town of just 14,608 people, being a rising tourist destination in the country that is full of Scandinavian charm. However, a darkness lingers over the place, with the unresolved murder of 17-year-old Emilie Meng in 2016 still haunting both local residents and the nation alike. Murders rarely go unsolved in Denmark, and the senseless killing of a regular Danish teenager shocked the nation.
It was on July 10, 2016, that Emilie Meng was last seen in Korsør, departing the train station and headed for home following a night out with friends in Slagelse, a town to the east. The friends were celebrating their success in end of year exams that had concluded their first year at Slagelse Gymnasium, having achieved their high school diplomas. The atmosphere during the night was said by friends to be jubilant, with the three visiting a shisha cafe and McDonald’s during their time out. The girls were described as kind, well mannered and respectful. There was no suggestion that alcohol or drugs were involved during the night out, or as a part of Emilie’s life in a broader context. However, at McDonald’s, the atmosphere changed and Meng was said to have become upset when she received a Facebook message from a boy, ending their relationship. While the two were not a formal couple, there had been a developing interest, and Emilie was visibly upset.
Back in Korsør, it was around 4am when she said goodbye to her two friends who took a taxi, Emilie deciding to walk the 2.5 miles to her home she shared with her parents and siblings. Meng continued to text her friends from her cellphone until her battery died, having told them she intended to take a road passed some allotments and onto a small street between the station and highway.
“We drive past her in the taxi, and the last thing we see is that she is still walking on the path. I think nothing is going to happen. It’s Korsør, almost nothing happens here”Nicole Grundtoft, a friend of Emilie Meng
Emilie was expected to sing at church the following morning but never arrived, and a search by Emilie’s mother failed to find the missing teenager. Upon raising the alarm, volunteers throughout the town assisted local police in scouring the area to find the missing girl. Despite the best efforts of locals, not a trace of Emilie was to be found. It was the most extensive volunteer search in Danish history, with hundreds turning out to find the young woman.
Out for their morning run, witnesses in Korsør reported that in the early hours they observed a white van travelling at speed through the town. The roads were narrow, and they were forced to leap aside so they weren’t mown down. Another witness says he saw what may have been the same van at a store just a few hundred yards from the train station. That afternoon, a fire broke out at a factory complex in the town that some speculated may have been connected with the missing girl. A 15-year-old boy was later arrested for the arson. Police would also also reveal their interest in a white Hyundai I30, 2011–2016 model. The car was seen driving around the station near the time of the disappearance.
The Police worked on three theories. One, that she had taken off unexpectedly to stay somewhere else, likely as she was upset. Two, that she had had an accident. Her root home took her across a canal, and there were theories she may have slipped and fallen in the water. Finally, she had become the victim of a crime. Sadly, as the weeks wore on, the optimism of those involved undoubtedly waned, and the third option looked increasingly likely. While there were tips, there were only around 45, with only three considered strong enough to identify a suspect. Those coming under suspicion included a 33-year-old truck driver, and a 67-year-old who had his home searched on five separate occasions, with none of the information leading police anywhere. Police also analysed mobile phone traffic around the area, identifying around 200 numbers which they called “interesting”.
However, it was later revealed that a data loss incident may have erased the killer’s number alongside others that may have been active in the area at the time. It wouldn’t be the only criticism of police handling the case, with authorities failing to secure surveillance footage that may have shown vehicles stated to be of interest and, equally, failing to question witnesses in the immediate aftermath of the disappearance. Police would defend their actions by saying they initially believed that Emilie had merely run away from home following the bad news she’d received on Facebook Messenger. The missing data was recovered in 2019, yet had possibly severely hampered the original investigation.
The truck driver from the Kolding area was under suspicion almost immediately after the disappearance, with a former friend of the man reporting him to police after a conversation that he found peculiar. The man had a previous conviction for a sexual offence against a minor and undoubtedly looked good for the crime. Such was the police’s confidence, his home and garden was immediately searched for burial sites. The suspect was taken into custody and questioned by authorities in Slagelse, with his truck’s GPS eventually proving he wasn’t in Korsør on the night of Emilie Meng’s disappearance.
“I’m sick of it. It’s hurting my family, and I’m a little tired of it. And the reason I want to tell [the public] about it is that of course the police have to take reports seriously, but I think they made too big a deal out of it. They should put two and two together and check my alibi before they come out with 16 men and search my home.”Unnamed suspect, B.T.
Despite his protestations, the truck driver would be arrested again for raping a nine-year-old girl in 2018.
The publicity surrounding the case prompted parents in Denmark to begin picking up their children to take them directly home, or giving them money for a taxi. There was even a local action group by the name of Natteravnene (“The Night Ravens”), mounting bicycles and stepping up citizen patrols around the train station where young men were noted as congregating to approach young girls. One group of vigilantes even believed they had found the girl, staking out a house and placing a citizen under surveillance as they publicly accused him of holding Emilie in his home. Some, such as former member Helle Flintholm, believed the action was self-defeating and immoral, contacting the police over the behaviour of the group.
“I suddenly find out that since August, an elderly couple has been monitored at an address in Korsør, because the neighbour thought that a woman’s voice shouted for her mother and for help while knocking and kicking sounds have been heard”Helle Flintholm, a former member of the “Missing People” vigilante group
The police would state that while they understood the depth of feeling amongst the local community in Korsør, the vigilante group had gone too far and the law needed to be able to work in peace. The Missing People group subsequently agreed to stand-down.
“We recommend that we be left in charge of the investigation of the missing Emilie Meng . That is what we are set in the world for, and we have both the tools and the training for it. We, therefore, want to appeal to you to think really hard before you start running with loose rumours. It hurts both the investigation and Emilie’s relatives. We are still working intensively to find out what may have happened on July 10. And we still have more directions we can move our investigation in.”Police Inspector Kim Kliver
The incident merely highlighted the intense emotions that were being felt across the town and local area surrounding the case. However, not everyone was consumed by grief for the missing Emilie, nor eager to aid in the search effort. The Offensimentum Facebook group has become notorious in Denmark for the content shared, often comparable to the likes of 4-Chan. Despite efforts of the admin team, numbering just 15 for 42,000 followers, the group became filled with memes and “jokes” at the expense of the girl, her disappearance being widely mocked. The postings perhaps show the nihilism of our age, one that crosses all borders around the globe.
Increasingly desperate for information, a personal and confidential number was launched to enable witnesses to report their suspicions anonymously, with a 200,000 kroner reward offered for details by the family. Emilie’s details were passed to Interpol as police speculated she may have travelled abroad or even been abducted and taken across the border into Germany.
With three months gone in the case, developments seemed to be underway in October as it was revealed that a 67-year-old man had had his home searched in Korsør, police working on the theory that the girl had been kidnapped and was being held as a prisoner. The press would evoke the Natascha Kampusch affair that shocked the world ten years prior in 2006. The suspect, Finn Petersen, was the same suspect that had been highlighted by Missing Persons. He had his property searched on four separate occasions, with neighbours reporting they had heard screams and knocking from the house. The searches seemingly cleared Petersen of any involvement, with police suggesting that the publicity surrounding the case was leading to citizens misinterpreting innocuous events as suspicious. However, despite the comments, police would search the property again later that same month, drilling into the walls and the floor. They would eventually eliminate Petersen from their enquiries once and for all, with the pensioner claiming he was the victim of harassment.
“I have been harassed so much, so they must have an ugly taste in their mouths”Finn Petersen
With the case file almost empty and with little to go on, Emile seemed destined to be one of the innumerable missing girls and women across Denmark who are never found. However, on Christmas Eve, 2016, a passer-by walking his dog in a forested area of Regnemarks Bakke near Borup discovered the body of Emile, it had been submerged in a lake. Police believe the girl had been murdered shortly after disappearing on July 10 and subsequently dumped at the location around 40 miles from her home.
The discovery of the body brought in 250 new leads and tips from the public, but once again, there was little further in the case. The police still believed that the sightings of the white van immediately after the kidnapping were significant as was the white Hyundai. Police confirmed that the lake was free from any forensic evidence that might have led them to Emile’s killer. A torch-lit procession of remembrance was held for Emilie in Korsør before she was buried on January 19, 2017, at Skt. Povl’s Church in the town, the church where she used to sing.
Since the discovery of Emilie Meng’s body at Christmas 2016, the police have kept their cards close to their chest. They have revealed little of the investigation or the findings of investigators, not even indicating how the 17-year-old was killed. The only hint of development was the press announcing that a witness saw somebody lifting a heavy object out of a white car close to the lake where the body was discovered. After two years of near-silence on the matter, an anonymous source posted a letter to the offices of the Danish tabloid B.T. which stated they had information on the case. The letter, which covered two sides of A4, revealed details about the affair that had never been made public. In January of 2019, police carried out DNA tests in Meng’s own neighbourhood, perhaps suggesting that a new theory has taken hold in the case that leads closer to home than initially suspected.
In 2019, a 42-year-old man was arrested in connection with the murder. The man owned a white Hyundai, one of the vehicles that the police had been keen to trace. He was already in custody in connection to two other murders, both elderly men. The man had confessed to the killing of 68-year-old coin collector Kiehn Andersen in Ruds Vedby in April and the murder of 80-year-old Poul Frank Jørgensen in Vemmelev in June. However, both murders have distinctly different features to that of Emilie Meng, both being elderly men stabbed in their own homes which were subsequently burned down. However, one of the victims was taken from his house and thrown in a lake. The man was later dismissed from enquiries.
One new theory has also emerged that links “submarine killer” Peter Madsen to the case. Madsen, notorious for his murder of the Swedish journalist Kim Wall aboard his privately constructed submarine, has allegedly been looked at for Emilie Meng’s murder on three separate occasions by Danish police. The police have highlighted several similarities in the killing of Wall and Meng, with Madsen known to have been driving a white van at the time of Emilie’s abduction. Madsen is also said to have close links with Korsør, and the murder would have come a less than a year before his murder of Wall. Madsen was described at his trial as a narcissistic psychopath who had been seen watching videos of decapitation and practising asphyxiation sex by colleagues.
After four years, it is difficult to judge how close the police are to a breakthrough in the case, with investigators going quiet ever since the finding of the body. The link to Madsen seems based on little more than supposition, with no reports of his involvement having developed prior, even during the sensationalism of his trial. DNA tests locally, however, seem to suggest that a profile of the killer has been found somewhere and that police may no longer believe the murder to have been a random kidnapping. With developments perhaps just around the corner, the case continues to be one that provokes strong emotions in Denmark, with many questioning whether the police have the training or support to deal with such issues and whether Denmark’s strict laws on surveillance are adequate in modern society. While these debates loom large, however, a killer remains on the loose. Whether the attack was random or targeted, there has yet to be justice for Emilie Meng and whether that’s thanks to police failings or a frighteningly able killer remains open to debate. It is perhaps difficult to judge which would be worse.
“It was probably just a person who has driven by and thought she is beautiful and young and then taken her from us. (…) If Emilie’s killer is never found, it’s going to break my heart. She deserves justice.”Nicole Grundtoft, a friend of Emilie Meng
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