Swastika-tattooed lower leg pressed upon his victim's chest, knee thrust under his Adam's apple. Blood flow cut off. Heart pumps out. Knife slashes, body burns, tree-branch bashes spurting blood over his body, eye popping partially out.
After prolonged torture, perhaps hours long, African-Danish-born Phillip Mbuji Johansen gasped his last frightful breath.
The 28-year-old died somewhere between 0039 and 0611, June 23. He was found by a passer-by at a shelter fireplace in the North Woods on the island of Bornholm, east from Denmark's capital.
Two white-power-proud brothers were arrested for the murder of their Tanzanian-Danish "friend" later that day. Reporters were told that one of the brothers admitted in a closed courtroom to beating the man but without intending to kill. The brothers had invited him for beer at the bonfire-shelter after a party. They were good buddies and racism is out of the question, white islanders say.
Phillip had just finished his engineering studies, and was hired to help build a bridge. He was visiting his family and friends at Bornholm, where he had lived most of his life. Bornholm with 40,000 residents, few people of color, is normally a peaceful place overflowing with nature's bounty. It has an average of only one murder every two years.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) in Denmark asserted that race is an issue in this murder in which a white murderer's knee caused the black man to stop breathing, a replica of what had recently happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis. Soon after Floyd's murder, one of Phillip's killers placed the racist-inspired slogan "White Lives Matter" on his Facebook cover.
Chief police inspector Jacob Ipsen told the private national daily newspaper Extra Bladet that a racist motive is part of police investigation albeit remote. Ipsen's statement was repeated by the state-sponsored broadcast and online medium Denmark Radio (DR).
In the same June 25 story under the conclusive headline, "Police: Nothing Points to a Racist Motive in the Killing at Bornholm", one of the killer's attorneys, John Joergensen, contradicted the leading police officer by contending that the motive was only personal. "My client was not even asked about that." This denial is backed up in the same article by the Vice-Police Inspector Henrik Schou, "At this point, there is nothing that points in the direction of racism."
The next day, Chief Prosecutor Benthe Petersen Lund actually called several media to refute the possibility of racism as a motive.
TCBH spoke with Lund about the murder and motive. "It was only personal, a relationship that went wrong. We know that it was not racially motivated and that will come out at the trial," she replied firmly. The trial is not expected to take place until September, leaving room for speculation.
TCBH pointed out to Lund that George Floyd and several other black men have been killed by white policemen choking them to death, which unleashed the current uproar against systemic racism and racist police brutality. That uproar is supported by many people in much of Europe, including Denmark, where people of color also experience discrimination and racial hatred.
"Is it not possible that choking Phillip with a knee, burning him as well, indicates racism hatred? How much and where was he burned and cut?" I asked the chief prosecutor.
"Forensics is still underway" [now three weeks on] "so we cannot say any more," Lund replied.
The police charged the brothers with "killing by agreement or in common understanding". The charge indicates a planned murder, I suggested. Lund had said that it was only a personal attack "that went wrong". Lund would not elaborate about it being planned.
While Lund is emphatic that the motive was not racist, she did admit that "officially" the case is still under investigation and other motives "are not ruled out". Police no longer speculate about motive in public, however.
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