A Norwegian man and his Filipino fiancée have denied kidnapping and murdering a six year-old girl in the Philippines. Sven-Erik Berger, 49, and Karen Castro Esredlon, 24, have been identified by three schoolchildren as the kidnappers of Ellah Joy Pique in the village of Minglanilla, 15 kilometres south of Cebu City.
The girl, whose body was discovered at the bottom of a cliff in the town of Barili on Wednesday, 9th February, was abducted from her school in broad daylight the day before. Witnesses claim they saw a Filipino woman and a white man bundle the child into a black SUV.
The pair, who deny their involvement in the crime and claim to have a strong alibi, were arrested last week at Mactan-Cebu International Airport after being picked out of the crowd by a witness.
“There were many people in the police station at the airport. The [10 year-old] boy pointed to a woman and a foreign man sitting at a table, and identified them as the two who kidnapped Ellah Joy outside the school,” the police report reads. Two other children also identified Berger and Esdreldon as the culprits when visiting the station the next day.
The couple claim that they have been mistakenly identified and that the witnesses were manipulated by police. They now have just seven days to prove their innocence.
“I have a plane ticket home to Norway on 22 February but doubt I will be on that flight,” said Mr Berger in a recent report by Aftenposten. “We are now branded as child murderers, and the only positive thing is that we are still allowed to sleep in the police station at night.”