HELSINGIN SANOMAT international

Metro - Monday 5.4.2004

Man remanded on suspicion of infamous unsolved triple murder from 1960

 Fourth member of camping party survived; police now believe he could be perpetrator

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The Espoo District Court ordered on Friday that a man be held in custody on suspicion of carrying out a savage murder that has remained open and unresolved for nearly 44 years, dating back to June of 1960.
   
The investigation of what is one of the best-known and most puzzling crimes in Finnish legal history took a dramatic turn late last week when the court remanded Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson on the grounds that there was "probable cause" to believe he was the killer of two 15-year-old girls and an 18-year-old male youth, the other three members of a weekend camping party.
   
Gustafsson was the only member of the quartet to survive an overnight attack in the campsite close to Bodom Lake, in Espoo. In the early hours of the morning of Sunday June 5th, 1960, the killer cut the guy-ropes of the tent in which the youngsters were sleeping and then stabbed and battered those inside savagely and repeatedly with a knife and a heavy blunt instrument.

The man remanded was arrested earlier in the week by the National Bureau of Investigation, Finland's central criminal police.
   
The arrest and the court hearing have both been shrouded in a veil of secrecy, and the preliminary investigation material surrounding this latest development in the case has also been kept secret, but it is known that police have strong reasons to suspect Gustafsson's role in the matter.

The "Bodom Lake Murders" rank among the most brutal killings in Finnish criminal history, and the incident left the entire country in a state of shock at the time. The mystery surrounding the identity of the killer or killers and any possible motive for the act has only served to elevate the events to quasi-mythical status, on a par with the "Jack the Ripper" case in the United Kingdom. The subject resurfaced in the headlines only a year ago, with the publication of a book by Professor Jorma Palo.
   
The three victims were Anja Tuulikki Mäki, 15, Maila Irmeli Björklund, 15, and Seppo Antero Boisman, 18. The only survivor, Nils Gustafsson, also 18 at the time, was seriously injured, with a blow to the back of the head, a deep knife wound to the forehead, and a smashed jaw. All four youths were from Vantaa, and had set off for the trip on the previous day on two motorcycles.

At the time, Gustafsson was not publicly suspected of any involvement in the killings, and he told police he had no recollection of the events of that night between going to sleep in the tent and waking up later in hospital.
   
Under hypnosis shortly after his discharge from hospital, Gustafsson had stated that he had managed to get out of the tent, at which point the killer had kicked him in the jaw. He also gave details of the man he claimed was the killer.
   
Any number of theories for the motive for the killings and the identity of the killer surfaced in the weeks and months after the event. One claim was that suspicions pointed to a man brought to a Helsinki hospital on June 6th, and another version argued that the killer was a man who drowned himself in the same lake in 1969. Both these stories proved false. A number of people were arrested in connection with the killings, but sufficient evidence was never found to warrant a prosecution.

The fact that the wording "probable cause" has now been used, and also the publication of the name of the alleged culprit, would seem to imply that the police have a strong belief that they can secure a conviction in the case. Reportedly Gustafsson's involvement had been suspected for some time prior to his arrest. He has been interviewed on several occasions while in custody.
   
Although the police have been very reluctant to divulge any details, a number of issues are clearly of significance, most prominent being the advances in forensic medicine since the time of the killings.
   
The police have naturally examined the bloodstains on the tent. Since it has generally been assumed that the assailant struck from outside the tent and through the canvas, it is logical that the blood of the victims would be on the inside. This raises the question of whether there are DNA-traceable samples from three persons or from four.
   
Equally, if Gustafsson is the alleged culprit, how were his own not inconsiderable injuries created? Were they self-inflicted, caused during the struggle with the others, or by some other means?
   
There is as yet nothing to suggest Gustafsson has confessed to the crimes. Now aged 62, he is partly retired from his work as a driver and mechanic for an Espoo bus company and he still lives in Espoo.

More on this subject:
 Man remanded on suspicion of infamous unsolved triple murder from 1960
 BACKGROUND: Murders that shocked Finland in the 1950s
 FACTFILE: Three crimes with no statute of limitations


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