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Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
Summertime in Finland is magical. When the long, ice-cold winter makes way for milder days, everyone wants to get out and enjoy the country’s natural beauty. The sun sets for a couple of hours and days are long and blissful. The green landscape makes for scenic hiking trails. And with no shortage of waterways, summer activities include fishing, canoeing, sailing and swimming.
In Espoo, west of Helsinki, the summer of 1960 was beautiful, with temperatures peaking at 20 degrees Celsius. Bodomjärvi, or Lake Bodom was a popular spot with campers from Helsinki and surrounding areas. There was a public swimming beach, and although the water was cold, it was calm and clear.
On Whitsunday morning, local carpenter, Esko Johansson waited for the day to warm up before he went for a swim. Around 11am, he headed to the lake, walking through the woods, along a headland, from where he planned to jump into the water. As he walked along, he had a strange feeling. It was awfully quiet – too quiet. The eerie silence engulfed him as he walked along, then he noticed a collapsed tent. It was the only tent at the site, and something didn’t look right. Confused by what he saw, Esko walked over to see if everything was okay.
The canvas of the tent had been slashed and there was blood everywhere. A pair of lifeless female feet protruded from the entrance… Then he saw a second body: a young man lying on top of the tent. He was covered with blood and appeared to be dead.
What Esko Johansson didn’t’ realise, was that he had walked onto a crime scene, that would haunt and puzzle everyone in Finland, and indeed the world, to this day. This case needs no introduction… It is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of our time: The Lake Bodom Murders.
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Saturday, the 4th of June 1960, was a glorious sunny day in Vantaa, Finland. School was out for summer and a group of teenagers decided to make the most of the pleasant weather. 18-year-olds Seppo Boisman and Nils Gustafsson picked up their 15-year-old girlfriends, Irmeli Björklund and Anja Mäki to go camping.
Seppo was doing an apprenticeship as an electrician at Strömberg Factories and Nils was in apprentice at a foundry. The girls were both still at high school. Irmeli hoped to graduate at as a seamstress from her vocational high school in Helsinki the following year.
The boys did not tell their parents that they had invited their girlfriends along on the camping trip; they simply said the two of them were going on a fishing weekend. They had been friends for years and this was not their first camping trip together. Seppo was a kind and gentle young man, who was diligent in calling home to let his mother know he was safe, or to tell her when he was on his way home. Nils was handsome and popular and always dressed well. Friends from their neighbourhood recalled how the two best friends rode their motorbikes together, went to a local milk bar or dance hall and listened to music. According to an old friend Nils and Seppo were…
“…really kind, lovely boys.”
Irmeli was turning 16 during the summer break of 1960 – in fact, it would be her birthday on the 6th of June, the Monday following Whitsunday. She was pushing the boundaries of her independence and asked her parents if she could spend her birthday camping with her boyfriend and friends. Both Irmeli and Anja’s parents were nervous to let them go, as an unsolved murder from the previous summer still haunted them.
In August 1959, two women in their early twenties were brutally murdered at a campsite in Tulilahti – about five hours’ drive northwest from Lake Bodom. A man was arrested in connection with the murders but ended his own life before his trial was concluded. Many people debated his guilt and wondered if the killer was still out there. The murders became a cautionary tale, used by parents to warn their young-adult children to be safe.
Seppo and Anja had been seeing each other for about a year and they were excited that their two best friends, Nils and Irmeli, had started dating too – only a couple of weeks before the trip. When Anja’s mom agreed that she could go, Irmeli’s mom also caved. They trusted their kids and knew they would not get into trouble. Anja’s parents knew Seppo and Nils well and ensured Irmeli’s parents that they were decent boys.
On Saturday afternoon, June 4th, the boys went to pick the girls up for their weekend away. Anja waited at Irmeli’s house, where she hopped onto the back of Seppo’s motorbike and Irmeli went with Nils. It was a lazy, sunny Saturday as they made their way to Lake Bodom, without a care in the world, wind blowing in their hair. The campsite was located at Oittaa Manor on the southern tip of the lake. It was only a 20-minute drive before they reached one of the most beautiful spots in the world. A dense birch forest embraced the clear, shimmering water. A public swimming beach was dotted with young families, teenagers, people fishing and canoeing. It didn’t get more idyllic than this.
When the teens from Vantaa arrived, Seppo drove straight to a campsite he had chosen some weeks before. However, someone had already pitched a tent, and they left to find another spot. They settled on a site out on a narrow headland, with water all around. There were plenty of trees for cover – it was perfect, even better than the first one. Seppo and Nils leaned their motorbikes against two trees and pitched their four-person tent right next to their bikes.
Once they were settled, the foursome took a short walk to a nearby kiosk where they bought chewing gum, ice cream and lemonade. Back at their tent, they sat around and talked about their plans for summer. Irmeli was looking forward to her 16th birthday the coming Monday and could not have picked a better way to celebrate it: camping at Lake Bodom with her new boyfriend Nils, her best friend Anja and her friend, Seppo.
Just south of the arctic circle, summer days in southern Finland are long, and the sun only sets for a couple of hours at night. On the 4th of June 1960, the sun set around 10:35pm and once it was dark, close to midnight, the four teens went into their tent to sleep. At some point, Seppo woke Nils up. He couldn’t sleep and asked if Nils wanted to go fishing with him. Nils agreed and, leaving their girlfriends to sleep, they went down to the water with their fishing gear.
They fished for a while, at the bluff closest to their campsite, but had no luck. Seppo wanted to try go the headland one small bay over, but Nils was cold and decided to go back. When Nils returned to the tent both girls were awake and chatting. They all waited for Seppo to come back. Irmeli wrote this in her diary:
“Camping at Lake Bodom. Sepi and Nisse were drunk. Up at 2am. Sepi was fishing.”
Seppo returned and said he had no luck fishing and was ready to go to bed. They all got into the tent and laid down to try and get some sleep. Seppo went in first, lying in a horizontal position. Then Anja and Irmeli laid next to each other in a vertical position, with Nils horizontally at the entrance-with-no-zipper.
It was still dark when they went to sleep, and the time was estimated to be around 2am. It was not until late morning when Esko Johansson headed down for a swim and came upon the grisly scene. It was like walking onto the set of a horror movie: blood was everywhere, and there was no sign of life.
Esko notified Lappävaara police, who arrived at the scene just before mid-day. Because it was Whitsunday, police were only operating with a skeleton staff. But once first two officers saw the crime scene, they realised that they would need all the help they could get and called for reinforcements from Helsinki.
As investigators worked their way through the carnage, they uncovered evidence of an unrelenting, violent attack. The tent ropes had been cut and the canvas had collapsed onto the victims. All four of them had serious head injuries and multiple stab wounds. Irmeli, Anja and Seppo were inside the tent, and all of them had perished. Nils was lying on top of the tent and had suffered severe blows to his face, but miraculously he had survived. He was alive, but unconscious, barely hanging on. Police took him to the nearest hospital, where medical staff stabilised him.
The bodies of the three young victims were taken from the scene so postmortem examinations could be conducted. None of the victims had any alcohol in their blood and neither of the girls was sexually assaulted.
The youngest of the three, Anja Mäki, had suffered two heavy blows to her head, inflicted by a flat, blunt object (like a metal bar) and died instantly.
Her boyfriend, Seppo Boisman, had abrasions to his face and jaw and his skull was fractured. His head and facial injuries were caused by the same, or similar blunt object. He also suffered multiple stab wounds, one of which penetrated his trachea and another one his lung. Besides the fatal blows, Seppo also had some superficial cuts and an abrasion on his left hand, showing he tried to fend off his attacker.
Of all the victims, Irmeli Björklund had suffered the most violence. She had received multiple blows to her head and face, causing severe bruising of her forehead, upper lip and jaw. Some teeth had been knocked from her lower jaw and she had been stabbed a total of 28 times. 15 of these wounds were made to her neck and inflicted after she had passed.
Nils Gustafsson’s injuries were similar to his best friend Seppo’s. He had fracture wounds on his jaw and skull, as well as multiple stab wounds. Due to his many head injuries, he had suffered a bad concussion. Nils regained consciousness in hospital and was lucky to be alive.
Police were eager to speak to the only survivor, hoping that he would be able to identify the attacker – did he perhaps know the person? But because of his severe head injuries and had some memory loss and told investigators that he had no recollection of the attack.
Nils recalled the events of the night before, saying that nothing out of the ordinary took place. They pitched their tent, the girls went for a swim, they sat around and talked… He also mentioned that he and Seppo had a beer, and most of the bottle of citrus liqueur but that the girls only drank lemonade.
Nils recounted the midnight-fishing with Seppo and said that they all went to sleep, after having a snack. How, when or why the attack occurred was not clear to him.
A memorial service was held for Anja, Irmeli and Seppo in their hometown. Families and friends looked on in disbelief at three white coffins, grappling with countless unanswered questions.
All eyes were on law enforcement. This was an unforgivable crime and the community demanded answers. All police knew at this point was that, sometime before 6am an unidentified assailant walked up to the group’s tent and launched an unprovoked, frenzied attack. They were stabbed through the canvas of the tent and bludgeoned with a blunt object. They fought to defend themselves as they woke up to the monster outside their tent, but they were trapped and did not stand a chance. Nils tried to escape but was ambushed before he could get away.
On the morning when the bodies were found, it seemed like the entire police force was present. In the chaos of the discovery, they did not cordon off the scene and hordes of officers and curious onlookers trampled the area surrounding the tent. It was a mammoth search effort with roadblocks, military troops, divers, sniffer dogs… Anyone who could assist in fine combing the woods, the beach and the water for any clues. Officers, journalists and civilians mulled around the crime scene, destroying vital evidence.
To investigators at the scene, it was evident that the killer stabbed his victims through the sides of the tent, attacking them blindly. He also used a blunt object to hit them. The entire surrounding area was searched, but neither weapon was ever recovered. He must have taken it with him.
Around the tent were various items of clothing, a packet of cigarettes, both girls’ shoes, a towel, swimsuits and some empty soft drink bottles. There was also a near-empty bottle of citrus liqueur, not the same brand as Nils recalled Seppo bringing. Nils said they had a beer and that the girls didn’t drink at all. Irmeli’s diary entry confirmed this. However, Seppo’s blood sample contained no alcohol. An oversight in the investigation was that no blood tests were performed on Nils.
Some items were missing from the scene, leading police to wonder if robbery was the motive behind the attack. However, the most valuable items, both motorcycles, were still there. Yet, the killer took both sets of keys. The victims’ wallets were also missing, as well as some of the girls’ clothing and Seppo’s leather jacket. Both Nils’ and Seppo’s shoes were taken and discarded in the woods, about 500 metres away from the tent.
One item that baffled investigators was a white pillowcase, rolled up and bound with a white elastic band. It had some blood and semen on it. The blood seemed older than the fresh blood at the scene, and at first glance they thought it could have been a make-shift menstrual pad. The autopsy report stated that Irmeli was on her period when she was killed.
Which brought investigators to study the position in which the victims were found. Looking from the top, Seppo and Irmeli’s positions formed an L shape, with Anja curled up on her side in a C-shape. Seppo was lying on his back and was covered with tent canvas from his torso to his face. His hands were on his chest, near his collar. Anja was on her side, with her feet against Seppo’s legs and her head towards the entrance, by Irmeli’s legs. Anja’s head was covered with a blanket, possibly to drown out the light so she could sleep. Irmeli’s feet protruded from the entrance. Her trousers and panties were pulled down to her ankles, and her sweater had been pulled up, exposing her tummy. Her boyfriend, Nils, was outside the tent, on top of the canvas, next to her. He was fully clothed, and like the others he had no shoes on, only socks.
Because of the way in which Irmeli was found, investigators felt there was a sexual element to the crime. But then again, she was not sexually assaulted. Police were eager to speak to Nils but had to wait for his release from hospital three weeks after the attack.
Nils’ memory of that night was still murky, and police decided to use hypnotherapy to try and get more information from him. In 1960, hypnosis was a relatively new and unconventional investigative tool and investigators were sceptical, but desperate.
In the first week of July, the police-appointed psychiatrist tried to hypnotise the traumatised Nils Gustafsson twice, with no luck. During the third session, Nils’ memory returned somewhat. He was able to tell investigators that he recalled being woken up by the tent collapsing onto them and hearing the girls screaming. Someone was there, attacking them. Here is a shortened version from the transcript of his hypnosis, loosely translated – the therapist posed questions and Nils answered:
Q: Did you hear any screaming?
Q: Who screamed?
A: I couldn’t tell, mostly the girls.
Q: What were they yelling, what did you think?
A: That someone was attacking us.
Q: And you opened your eyes?
A: I couldn’t. They were full of blood.
And later, still under hypnosis…
Q: Do you see now?
A: I see, a little bit… The roof of the tent is above us… He started hitting us… He had blond hair, was of medium build, round faced and he had a dark sweater on. He didn’t say anything. He hit us with a sharp weapon, maybe a knife and with some kind of hard weapon. I can’t remember the weapon, a longer iron maybe, I think.
Q: Do you see anything else?
A: Only blood.
Q: Who did you see blood on first?
A: On Irmeli.
Q: On what part of her?
A: On her head.
Q: What else do you remember.
A: I don’t remember, nothing.
Q: Look harder, do you see him now? You see him entering from the tent door?
A: No, he didn’t enter, he tore his way through into the tent. I saw this from the hole in the tent.
Q: What did you do when you tried to escape form the tent but didn’t manage?
A: I don’t know because he hit me.
Q: Had he hit the girls?
Q: Did the girls say anything?
A: They cried out for help.
Nils was able to provide a detailed description of the attacker: a man of about 20-30 years old with blond hair, combed back. He had no beard and had some pimples on his face. His forehead had distinct wrinkle lines. Besides a knife, carried an iron rod or a metal plate. He was wearing dark clothing and Nils recalled seeing his bright red eyes as he was coming for them. This sounded more like a demon than a human being. Could it be that the perpetrator had light eyes that reflected the bloody scene in the bright morning light?
Nils’ account of the attack was spine-chilling. But the psychiatrist warned that hypnosis was not always 100% accurate. Investigators knew they needed more evidence to back up Nils’ statement and hopefully that would lead them to the killer.
Everyone at the campsite was questioned. Within hours of the discovery, the first witnesses came forward with curious information. Two boys were out birdwatching just before 6am, when they noticed the torn tent in the distance. They saw a blond man walking away from the collapsed tent. He was wearing a jacket and black pants and walked away from the waterside, in the direction of where Nils’ and Seppo’s shoes were later found.
Another witness, a 14-year-old boy who was fishing early that morning also said he saw a blond man walking towards the woods. The man was only about 50 metres away from him. However, the boy was near sighted and his testimony was not the most reliable. Under hypnosis, his detailed description of the man was very similar to Nils Gustafsson’s description.
A composite sketch was distributed, and police pleaded with the public to come forward with information. Sometime after the funeral, a photo of the crowd was released showing a man with a striking resemblance to the composite sketch. However, this man has never been identified. It remains a haunting picture, suggesting that the killer could have been among family and friends, mourning the victims.
Police received many tips from the public and followed up on each and every one. The tips provided the first suspects in the case, like a man called Pauli Luoma. Witnesses saw him carrying a bag that looked like one of the items stolen from the murder scene. Luoma had walked out on his job and people found him to be somewhat sketchy. However, he had a black beard and did not fit any of witness’ descriptions. He also had an alibi: on the night of the murders, he was Otaniemi, just outside of Helsinki. Once his alibi checked out, police excluded Luoma from the investigation.
A second suspect was pointed out by people familiar with the campsite at Lake Bodom. Aarne Louko was a caretaker, and some believed he owned a pillowcase similar to the one found at the scene. He was known to be a violent drunk and had been accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old girl five years before the Bodom Murders. He was a young-looking 34-year-old with blond hair, which he combed back.
Esko Lonka, a petty criminal who lived in the area was also linked to the pillowcase. He was questioned in December 1960, after his mother informed police that she thought the pillowcase looked like one she made. The fabric was also the same as Lonka’s bicycle seat cover.
Both of these suspects had some inconsistencies in their statements about their whereabouts. They were never really excluded, but it did not seem like either of the men could be the killer. In a Finnish documentary series about the case, released in 2020, renowned scientist Jari Louhelainen and Helsinki taxi-driver and Lake Bodom-sleuth Kenneth Cederberg set out to find answers. With the help of family members of Louko and Lonka they were able to obtain DNA samples to test against the semen and blood from the controversial pillowcase. In the end, neither of the men was a match.
Another suspect inserted himself into the investigation. Pennti Soinenen was in prison on unrelated charges when he confessed to the murders. He was a violent man who enjoyed invoking fear into others. Police believed his confession was nothing more than jailhouse boasting. He would only have been 15 years old at the time of the murders. The force of the attack against four people, was not likely to have been committed by a kid younger than most of his victims.
One of the strongest suspects in the case was someone who was on the radar from the very first day. Valedemar Gyllström ran the kiosk in Oittaa campsite, earning himself the unimaginative nickname of ‘The Kiosk Man’. It was common knowledge that he despised people who camped at Lake Bodom; he made no secret of it over the years.
Retired politician, Ulf Johansson, who was the same age as the victims at the time of the murders, and lived in the area his whole life, wrote a book about how locals felt about the crime. According to Johansson, local kids would never have pitched a tent where the teens from Vantaa did that night. It was too close to the kiosk and everyone was terrified of ‘The Kiosk Man’. Besides cutting down tents and throwing rocks at campers, he occasionally shot at them. Because young campers occasionally picked apples from the trees near the kiosk, he hid razorblades inside of the apples. Gyllström was especially protective of the small peninsula where the group set up camp that fateful night, because it was the nearest campsite to his kiosk. It annoyed him that teenagers came to the tranquil nature spot and partied, disturbing the peace and not showing respect. His pet-hate was the noise motorbikes made – it drove him up the wall.
However, Gyllström had a solid alibi for the night of the murders. His wife also said that he was at home, went to bed at 11pm and slept until the next morning. She was awake all night and was confident that he never left the house. There was also no physical evidence linking him to the murders. Police felt that Gyllström – known to be volatile and sometimes violent – was a scapegoat, and that the rumour mill pinned the crime on him without any evidence to back it up.
In the years that followed, stories went around about Gyllström’s confessions. He admitted to the murders on at least three occasions, but because he was drunk every time, police did not think it carried much weight. According to locals, police failed to investigate Gyllström properly and blamed the language barrier. He spoke Swedish, which was not a problem for local police. But once the investigation was taken over by investigators from Helsinki, some things got lost in translation.
In 1969, nine years after the murders, Gyllström made yet another drunken confession to a neighbour, saying he was the killer. He asked his neighbour what he should do about it. The neighbour replied:
“If you did it, I think you should drown yourself because you will spend the rest of your life in prison.”
A couple of hours later Gyllström drowned in Lake Bodom. His death was considered a suicide, and he left a note with one handwritten line saying:
“I killed them.”
After his death many witnesses came forward saying that it was him leaving the campsite on the morning of the murders nice years before. They never wanted to accuse him directly, because they were afraid of him. His wife said he forced her to provide an alibi, and fearing for her own safety, she complied.
Local residents also reported that he had a well on his property that he filled in shortly after the murders. It was the general assumption that he had disposed of the murder weapons in the well. Of course, all of this happened before DNA evidence was used to link perpetrators to crime scenes, so police never took a sample from him. Police also searched his house and garden and found no evidence linking him to the murders. However, they never searched the filled-in well.
Despite all the stories pointing to Gyllström, his suicide note, his wife retracting his alibi, police did not believe he was the killer. They concluded he was a deeply disturbed man who resented tourists, but not a murderer. Although his facial features fitted the description of the killer, his hair was dark, not blond. There is a photo of him, taken on the day the bodies were found. He is sitting outside of his kiosk, and he looks straight at the camera. In his belt is a knife. Either he was innocent and therefor felt comfortable sitting outside his kiosk, smoking a cigarette and posing for a photo. Alternatively, if he WAS the killer, he hid the truth in plain sight, behind his cold, unemotional gaze.
In a strange twist of fate, another suspect also ended his own life in 1969. On the 6th of June – a day after the anniversary of the murders, on Irmeli’s birthday, the jailhouse confessor Pentti Soininen, hanged himself in his holding cell in Toijala Station. He lived near the campsite at the time of the murders. Did he have some unknown connection to Irmeli, who was the same age as him? No link has ever been established and the fact that he died on Irmeli’s birthday is considered to be mere coincidence.
Besides Gyllström, The Kiosk Man, there was another man who attracted a lot of attention, mainly because he almost looked identical to the composite sketch of the killer. What made police uneasy about him, was that on the morning of June 6th (the Monday after the murders) he showed up at a hospital in Helsinki with bloodied clothes. His hands were grimy, and he had dirt under his fingernails. The doctor recalled he was agitated when they caught him out trying to give a false name.
Hans Assmann lived five miles away from the campsite, on the shores of Lake Bodom. He was a former SS officer who had worked as a guard in Auschwitz during the Second World War. He claimed that he was taken by Russian forces and in order to spare his own life, he became a KGB agent.
This wasn’t the first time Assmann’s name came up in a murder investigation. He was a person of interest in the 1959 double-murder at campsite in Tulilahti. He was also suspected of murdering 17-year-old Auli Kyllikki Saari, who was last seen alive cycling home after a prayer meeting in Merikavia in May 1953. Her body was discovered five months later.
Assmann was suspected because his car was identical to one pointed out by witnesses, and his wife confirmed that he was in Merikavia with his driver at the time of the disappearance. Moreover, Assmann confessed to the murder on his deathbed in 1997. He told a former investigator that his driver had run the girl over, but that it was an accident. Because of Assmann’s work as a spy, he could not make it known that he was in the area at the time. Desperate to conceal their presence, Assmann and the driver hid Kylilli’s body. Assmann maintained that it was an accident that could not be avoided. Assmann said Finish secret service told police that he was in Germany at the time, because they did not want to jeopardise his work.
The doctor who examined him at the hospital back in 1960, Jorma Palo, wrote three books about the Bodom Murders. He firmly believes that Assmann was the killer and that police failed to investigate him properly.
However, police were not sold on the Assmann-theory. Firstly, if he committed the murders early Sunday morning, why only go to hospital, still covered in blood on Monday. Also, there was the issue of Assmann’s alibi. He was having an affair, and, on the night of the murders, he had snuck out of his house to meet his lover. He was with her at the time witnesses claimed to have seen the blond man walking away from the campsite. He was in bed with her, in her sister’s apartment all night. They slept with the door open and there is no way he could have left without anyone noticing. All three people in the apartment claimed that he only woke up at 9am, when his girlfriend brought him coffee in bed.
Police never gave up hope that someday they would find Irmeli, Seppo and Anja’s killer. Sole survivor, Nils Gustafson remained in Espoo where he married and raised a family. He lived a quiet life, always haunted by the tragedy that made him known throughout Finland. He worked as a bus driver and kept to himself, hoping that he would one day find out who killed his friends and changed his life forever.
The case haunted everyone who ever worked on it. The case remained open, and police vowed to continue the investigation as long as it takes. Then, in 2003, the three victims’ bodies were exhumed. Investigators hoped that with new forensic technology, like DNA testing, they would be able to gain a better insight as to what happened that night in 1960. Once all the necessary samples were taken, the victims were laid to rest for a second time. They were buried together in Vantaa’s Church Cemetery, side-by-side: Seppo in the middle, Irmeli to his left and Anja to his right. Forever 15 and 18-years-old…
A year later, in 2004, 63-year-old Nils Gustafsson was unexpectedly arrested on suspicion of committing the murders. The public never knew police even considered Nils as a suspect, so it came as a great shock. The whole of Finland watched the trial in horror, hoping to learn what happened at Lake Bodom 45 years before.
Nils Gustafsson, who always professed his innocence, pleaded not guilty. In an unconventional move, he held a press conference, inviting journalists to ask questions. He maintained that he could not remember what happened that night during the attacks. One journalist asked: if he couldn’t remember, how could he say for sure that he didn’t do it? He insisted that he didn’t do it, he said:
“I’m innocent and that’s all there is to it.”
Nils reiterated that his last memory of that night was wishing his friends a good night and going to sleep. When he woke up in the hospital, he didn’t know if it was Wednesday or Thursday. Irmeli’s diary found at the campsite had a final entry that indicated nothing out of the ordinary, and confirmed Nils’ version of events.
A witness named Tarja Sahakangas came forward and claimed that she was also camping at Lake Bodom on that fateful night. She said that the group of teens joined her group in their tent for a while. She recalled Nils and Seppo had a heated argument and thought that Nils was very drunk. When the fight turned physical, she asked them to leave. The witness only came forward 40 years later in a TV interview. She could not recall the names of the people she camped with, so there was no one to corroborate her testimony. Nils recalled the events of the night before the attack. He never once mentioned visiting another group’s tent. Irmeli’s diary also made no mention of other campers, so this testimony was not seen as reliable.
The Prosecution’s case was that the four teenagers did not get along that night. Nils had too much to drink and picked a fight with Seppo. They theorised that the fight was brought on because Nils was jealous of Irmeli and Seppo. A physical altercation ensued, with Seppo kicking Nils in the face, breaking his jaw. The girls broke up the fight, but they were not amused with Nils and he was told to sleep outside the tent. Angered and humiliated, he attacked and killed all of them. The object of his jealousy, Irmeli, bore the brunt of his rage. He then disposed of some items to stage a burglary, before inflicting superficial injuries so he wouldn’t be suspected.
Prosecution produced evidence based on bloodstain interpretation. The original tent was set up in the courtroom – a vivid reminder of the horrendous attack. Tests found DNA from all four of the victims on the tent’s canvas. Some smaller stains did not yield a DNA profile, so it was not possible to determine for sure if there was another person present or not. In the Prosecutor’s opinion, there was no other DNA sample, because the killer was Nils Gustafsson, who pretended to be one of the victims.
Nils’ shoes that were found some distance away from the scene had the blood of all three murder victims on it. However, none of his blood was present. To Prosecution, this was proof that Nils wore the shoes while killing his friends. Prosecution also argued that the bodies were not killed where they were found, seeing as splatter patterns did not match the victims’ positions. They contended that the three teens were killed outside the tent and then place inside.
Prosecution also claimed that the description of the man walking away from the tent, provided by the early-morning birdwatchers, could very well have been Nils Gustafsson, who was tall and fair-haired.
The Defence argued that the murders were committed by one or more persons, unknown to the group. Medical experts testified that Nils’ injuries were extreme, and that it was unlikely he could have hurt himself so badly. If he had sustained injuries like a broken jaw earlier that night, because of a fight with Seppo, he would have been in a tremendous amount of pain. There is no way he would have been able to attack his three friends in his condition.
The Defence also pointed out that Nils’ blood was found inside the tent. So, if he had been banished to sleep outside – it didn’t add up. And again, suffering from major injuries, he would not have been physically able to carry the bodies and pose them.
Nils Gustafsson gave his full co-operation from the very beginning of the investigation. His version of events never changed, and some small details like how much alcohol they consumed, and which brand of liqueur they bought was insignificant to the murders. Everyone who knew Nils and Seppo said that they were the best of friends and never fought. Nils maintained what he had said all along: he and Seppo went fishing that night – and there was no argument between them. He returned to the tent because he was cold, not because of a disagreement.
In October 2005, Nils Gustafsson was acquitted of all charges. The court ruled that the prosecution’s evidence was inconclusive, seeing as they had failed to provide a plausible motive for Nils to have murdered his friends. Judging by the evidence presented to the court, they believed that there was a person, not part of their group, who had committed the killings.
The State of Finland gave Nils a pay-out of 44,900 EUROS for mental suffering caused by his time on remand. However, he was permitted from taking legal action against Finnish news outlets for defamation.
Although the victims’ families were hoping for closure, they were not surprised at the outcome of the trial. They never believed Nils was the one who killed their loved ones.
Only the trees and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Bodom hold the secret of this harrowing crime. As time goes by, we can only wonder if this 60-year-old mystery will ever be solved…
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