Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Maren Ueland: Two Scandinavian women on a backpacking trek in Morocco are murdered. A suspect is arrested. Motive unknown.
A man has been arrested following the decapitation of two Scandinavian women in Morocco.
Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Norwegian woman, Maren Ueland, 28, were found with cuts to their necks in the tourist village of Imlil in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains on Monday.
Vesterager Jespersen and Ueland, both named in Scandinavian media today, had reportedly been backpacking in the area when they were killed.
Two suspects were being sought over the deaths of the two women, Moroccan officials said- in a crime now thought to be sexually motivated.
The slain hikers were found with ‘signs of violence’ on their necks caused by a cutting device, the interior ministry said.
The bodies were found around six miles from the tourist village of Imlil, which is often the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa.
The man, thought to be Moroccan, was arrested on suspicion of murder in the city of Marrakesh about 60 kilometers north of Imlil.
He was being held in custody ‘to determine the motive of the crime while investigations continue to arrest other individuals who have been identified and suspected of taking part in criminal acts’, the central bureau of judicial investigation in Morocco said in a statement.
Louisa Vesterager Jespersen mother warned her against traveling to Morocco:
Danish news outlet, BT reported the victims had both been studying ‘outdoor activities and cultural guidance’ at a college in the village of Bo, in Telemark, Norway.
Vesterager Jespersen, from Ikast, west Denmark, ‘had her throat cut,’ her mother Helle Petersen was quoted by the BT as saying.
Of note, the mother had warned her daughter against traveling to Morocco ‘because of the chaotic situation’.
According to Vesterager Jespersen’s Facebook page, she’d studied in Norway to be a guide.
Following the double murders, security was stepped up and hiking suspended, local media reported.
Jespersen was originally from Denmark but had been living in Norway for some time, according to her social media profile.
Ms Ueland’s mother, Irene, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK: ‘The girls had taken all precautionary measures before embarking on this trip.’
She said they had been studying together at the University of South-Eastern Norway and had gone backpacking for a month-long Christmas holiday on December 9.
Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Maren Ueland: victims described as adventurous and seeking to pursue career in trekking.
Irene Ueland shared a picture on social media of her daughter, who hailed from Bryne in south-west Norway, and a huge dog with the caption, ‘Our Maren’ and two heart emojis.
Moroccan officials said an investigation had been launched into the ‘criminal act’, without providing more details.
Jespersen’s mother, Helle Jespersen, told BT the family was ‘completely broken’, after being told the news of her daughter’s death just before Christmas.
Jespersen has been described as ‘adventurous’ and ‘always happy and positive’ by her family, who had reportedly tried to get her to come home for the festive period.
Posted Jespersen on her Facebook page, November 21: ‘Dear friends, im going to Morocco in december. Any of you guys whos around by then or any mountain friends who knows something about Mount Toubkal? [sic]’
She had also posted pictures from previous trips in which she is hiking in mountains as well as skiing and kayaking.
Imlil is as a starting point for trekking and climbing tours of Mount Toukbal, the highest summit in North Africa.
Hossein, a local guide in the area, said: ‘It’s very bad for the region. There will undoubtedly be cancellations.’
Tourism is a cornerstone of Morocco’s economy and it’s second-largest employer, after agriculture.
The sector accounts for ten per cent of national income and is one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency.
A Norwegian policeman from the embassy in Rabat is traveling to Marrakesh to act as a liaison between the authorities.