There was a time, not so long ago, when our children could be safe going out on a snow day to play with their friends. Those days, for the most part, are long gone, though there are some wholesome neighborhoods that still exist despite the dangers of our modern world.
It was in one such neighborhood, in a veritable winter wonderland, that we learn how unsafe even the safest of places is nowadays. It happened on a cold, October day, during the first snowfall of the season…
Trondheim, Norway is, on the whole, a snowy, chilly place to call home. Even in mid October, the snow falls readily across the whole place. On this October day, the first snow of the season had fallen and all the children in the neighborhood were out and about, building snowmen and having snowball fights.
An eight-year-old boy was on his way home after a day of playing. His cheeks were red and his hands were wet under his gloves. What he needed was a warm cup of cocoa. As he walked, he noticed something half-buried in the snow near the local football field. The boy crept closer and recognized the snowy something as the mostly naked body of a local girl, five-year-old Silje Redergard…
They Didn’t Know
The boy ran to her parents house to tell them what he’d seen. The Redergards weren’t sure if he was telling the truth, but rather than risk it, they decided to follow him. In an instant they were speeding their way towards the football field. A group of police were now there and had cordoned off the area. They could not get through.
Reasons and Theories
The police asked who they were and before they could even get any closer, an officer was driving them to the station. Their daughter was dead and the police believed that, judging by her state of undress, it looked as though it had something to do with sexual abuse. Because suspicion usually falls on the closest family members, they had to be interviewed, but were quickly ruled out as suspects…
The Real Culprits
Breathe Redergard and Silje’s stepfather, Jorgen Barlaup, didn’t get home that night until well after 10 pm. Neither slept that night. They kept thinking about how their little girl must have suffered at the hands of some depraved pedofile. They, like the police, assumed that the real killers, when found, would be adults. The truth, as it turned out, was much more unusual, and disturbing.
The next morning, Breathe heard that there was a local woman, a neighbor who she’d never met, who had apparently tried to resuscitate Silje before the police arrived. Even though she was unsuccessful, she wanted to go over and thank her for her efforts. The woman invited her in and sat with her young son on her lap and seemed slightly nervous…
The woman began to explain that she had tried her hardest to save Silje. Then, after a brief lull in the conversation, she took a deep breath and told grieving mother that it was the young boy on her knee, her own son, that had killed Silje. Breathe Redergard couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
What Did You Do?
Breathe looked at the boy and asked him, “What did you do?” He answered, in the innocent tone of a child who didn’t know better that he had, “jumped on her because I thought she was sleeping.” He explained that this was the same reason he’d taken off her clothes, because he thought she had gone to sleep. Rage welled up inside the grieving mother…
“When we found out he had done it, we left,” explained Breathe Redergard. “It was too difficult. I wanted to throttle him and be done with it. When I realised that I almost wanted to kill him, we left.” It wasn’t until some time later, after the police had been told the truth, that Silje’s parents learned what really happened that day.
Only a Moment
Silje had gone out that morning and met up with two young six-year-old boys who she had played with several times before. None of the children’s parents had known each other, but it was a small, friendly town and the trio were all very close in age. They headed to a football field to build snow castles and that’s when things took a turn….
The trio played in the snow, building snow castles until something triggered a change in the boys’ behavior. Silje Redergard was kicked, punched, and hit with stones before being stripped and left in the snow, where she froze to death. It only took a few terrifying minutes to end her tiny life.
The community was in disbelief, that such a thing could happen in such a nice, quiet town was beyond comprehension. Yet, something must have happened to trigger such a violent reaction in the two boys, but what was it? What caused the boys to turn on their former playmate? The reasons would have to wait, however…
I Blame Power Rangers
The story quickly spread through the community. Rumors were bandied about that the boys in question had killed Silje because they had been copying Power Rangers. After that, parents were up in arms about the show’s violence and as a result, the Scandinavian network TV-3 dropped the show from broadcasts in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Justice for Silje
Once they had met with the boy’s mother and the story went public, Silje’s parents hoped that they would receive some justice for their little girl: they would be sadly mistaken. The problem was, the lads who had done this terrible thing were young, far too young to prosecute. So what could they do?
Beaten to Death
Even today, so many years after it happened, the reasons behind why the two boys inflicted such violence on their friend still remains largely unknown. The best investigators were able to glean was that they, “…beat her till she stopped crying…” which explained why the viciousness of the attack escalated, but not why it occurred in the first place.
The case itself has been widely compared with the murder of James Bulger, a two-year-old boy from Merseyside, England who had been kidnapped and murdered by two ten-year-old boys just a year earlier. The culprits, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, had taken the boy from a shopping centre in Liverpool before the killing…
James Bulger was beaten, tortured and killed by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, but while in Britain the two 10-year-old killers were tried as adults, Silje’s killers were not treated as such. Thompson and Venables were sentenced to a secure facility, whereas the six-year-old killers were released into the custody of their parents and quietly forgotten about.
There were significant differences in both cases, of course. James’s killers were four years older than the boys who killed Silje and they hadn’t known him before they stole him away from his mother, but Silje knew the other two and had been playing when things escalated. Of course, that didn’t matter to the other town residents at first…
The other thing that separated Silje’s killing from James’ was that there were no pictures or descriptions, or even names of the boys in any Norwegian newspapers. They wanted to keep things as calm as they could. Since that day, only Silje’s parents and the police know the true identity of the killers and have come to forgive them enough to respect that.
Just Little Kids
“At first there was a lynch mob atmosphere in the town,” explains Breathe Redergard. “Everybody wanted to know who had done it. Once we got to know that it was these little boys who’d done it, that lynch mob mood died down.” Despite her anger and her grief, she, along with most people, felt bad for the boys. “They were just little kids”.