A suspect has been arrested following the murder of two Scandinavian women in Morocco, the interior ministry said today.
Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Norwegian Maren Ueland, 28, were found with cuts to their necks in the tourist village of Imlil in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains on Monday.
Ms Vesterager Jespersen and Ms Ueland, both named in Scandinavian media today, had reportedly been backpacking in the area when they were killed.
Other suspects are being sought over the deaths of the two women, Moroccan officials said today.
They were found with ‘signs of violence’ on their necks caused by a cutting device, the interior ministry said.
Louisa Jespersen was named by Danish media as one of the women found dead in a village in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains on Monday
Maren Ueland was named by Norwegian media as the second woman found dead in the village of Imlil in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains on Monday
Both women had both been studying ‘outdoor activities and cultural guidance’ at a Norwegian college in the village of Bo
A helicopter at the crime scene where the bodies of Ms Jespersen and Ms Ueland were discovered in Imlil in the High Atlas range in Morocco
Both women’s bodies were found in an isolated mountainous area six miles (ten kilometres) from the tourist village of Imlil in the High Atlas range.
The man, thought to be Moroccan, was arrested on suspicion of murder in the city of Marrakesh about 60 kilometres north of Imlil, the ministry said.
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.
They had both been studying ‘outdoor activities and cultural guidance’ at a college in the village of Bo, in Telemark, Norway, Danish newspaper
Ms Vesterager Jespersen, from Ikast, west Denmark, ‘had her throat cut,’ her mother Helle Petersen was quoted by the BT as saying.
Her family had warned her against going to Morocco ‘because of the chaotic situation’, she added.
According to Ms Ms Vesterager Jespersen’s Facebook page, she had studied in Norway to be a guide.
Ms Jespersen (pictured) and her friend Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway were studying ‘outdoor activities and cultural guidance’ at a college in Norway
Ms Jespersen (left and right) posted pictures of her hiking, kayaking and skiing on her social media accounts
A view of the crime scene where the bodies of the two women were found. Moroccan officials said other suspects are being sought over the deaths
Security was stepped up in the region and hiking suspended following the discovery of the bodies, local media said.
Ms Jespersen was originally from Denmark but had been living in Norway for some time, according to her social media.
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.
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.
Ms 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.
People gathered at the scene where Louisa Jespersen and Maren Ueland were found on Monday
Ms Ueland’s mother told the media both girls has taken safety measures before going on their backpacking trip to Morocco over the festive period
Emergency services at the crime scene in the village of Imlil today, where trekking and hiking tours are a popular tourist attraction
Describing the moment the police arrived at her door she said: ‘I saw that there were two police officers there, I knew what had happened. I broke down.’
Ms 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.
On November 21, Ms Jespersen wrote of her trip on Facebook: ‘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 he is hiking in mountains as well as skiing and kayaking.
Moroccan officials said a suspect had been arrested in relation to the murder of Ms Jespersen (above) and her friend who were both found dead in the village of Imlil
Morocco’s rugged High Atlas Mountains (pictured) are popular with trekkers and climbers
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 the kingdom’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 travelling to Marrakesh to act as a liaison between the authorities.