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No criminal offence found in Barrie woman's death in Norwegian jail

Jessica Stephens, 32, died by suicide March 11 while incarcerated at Bredtveit prison; Mother says she had recently started new medication and was not monitored
Left: Jessica Stephens during a trip to South Africa. Right: Jessica Stephens, 32, took her own life while behind bars in Oslo, Norway.

The investigation into the death of a Barrie woman in a Norwegian prison has concluded there was no evidence to support anything criminal activity occurred.

In an email to BarrieToday, Insp. Tina Bjarkø Helleland confirmed Oslo Police District had opened an initial investigation, as is routine for the department, in connection with the death of 32-year-old Jessica Stephens

Stephens died by suicide on March 11 while incarcerated at Bredtveit prison, located approximately 10 kilometres northeast of the Norwegian capital. She was being detained for allegedly smuggling cannabis into the country. Cannabis is illegal in Norway, unless it's for medicinal use.

“Our primary concern in such cases is investigating whether her death was caused by a criminal offence," Bjarkø Helleland wrote in the email. "To establish the facts, a forensic autopsy has been carried out. We also handle any contact with next of kin."

The Stephens family is represented by legal counsel in Norway, who also have contact with the police, Bjarkø Helleland added. 

“Based on the current investigations, we have not found any evidence to support that the death was indeed caused by any criminal offence," the inspector said. 

Stephens, according to her mother Lori Stephens, suffered for years with severe mental health issues, which she believes is ultimately what led her to Oslo in May 2021.

Lori Stephens also believes that, despite authorities at the prison having nearly 600 pages of Jessica’s health records, her daughter was not given any treatment or medication for the first 10 months of being incarcerated.

Five days before her death, Jessica was put on medication, but Lori said her daughter was not monitored by medical professionals upon starting the new prescription.

Bjarkø Helleland added police have started an initial investigation to establish whether Jessica Stephens received proper and necessary treatment during her incarceration in Bredtveit prison.

“Counsel representing the next of kin have requested access to police investigation files on this matter and have been provided with a copy of the case files," added Bjarkø Helleland.

About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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