The Lake Bodom murders may well be the most famous unsolved homicide in Scandinavian Criminal History. Occurring in 1960 and claiming 3 victims with 1 injured survivor it is a Finnish zeitgeist that at one time or another had the whole of Finland enraptured. It is now a buzzword for murder and mystery in the small country.
They were all teenagers — just typical Finnish teenagers.
The story plays out like an American slasher movie, set over a decade before the slasher genre was even invented (unless of course you’re including Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as a slasher pic).
It is a story of how a typical night of drinking, teenage love and teenager adventure turned into a blood-ridden massacre. A homicidal maniac on the rampage? Or a jealous tiff turned into blood soaked carnage?
Four young kids go camping at the nearby Lake Bodom and only one comes back alive; severely beaten, wounded but… alive nonetheless.
A little over 20km outside of Helsinki at the beautiful Lake Bodom the Finnish teens decided to camp out on the Lake for the night. It was June 4th 1960 and the trip consisted of two girls accompanied by their slightly older two boyfriends.
Maila Irmeli Björklund (15 years old female) — DIED Anja Tuulikki Mäki (15 years old female) — DIED Seppo Antero Boisman (18 years old male) — DIED Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson (18 years old male) — SURVIVED
Seppo had managed to get some alcohol and black market condoms for the night ahead in the serenity of the Finnish landscape. Their motorcycle was parked besides the tent and they were positioned on a slight slope by the shade.
At sometime between 4.00am and 6.00am on the Sunday 5th June 1960 Maki, Björklund & Boisman were stabbed and bludgeoned to death. This had occurred around the single tent which was pitched by the shore of Lake Bodom and had all four of the Finns sleeping inside of that night. Maila Irmeli’s body was found outside the tent alongside her boyfriend’s wounded body while the other two were found dead inside the tent.
Gustafsson himself had managed to survive however he suffered from a concussion, memory loss, fractures to his jaw and a stab wound across his forehead.
It was Gustafsson’s girlfriend Maila Irmeli that had the most severe wounds at the time of her death having been stabbed fifteen times that night. When found, Irmeli was undressed from the waist down, there were stabbed wounds inflicted even after she was dead.
While it seemed clear that Anja and Seppo were murdered from within the tent and through the fabric in a less painful and less frenzied manner.
Gustafsson claimed at the time to have seen a figure dressed in black and red with bright eyes appear from nowhere and viciously attack the group. Beyond this Gustafsson was a useless and amnesiac witness.
The killer had appeared to attack the occupants with a knife from the outside and an unidentified instrument through the sides of the tent. The murderous weapons were never located. The killer also took several items from his victims who included keys to a motorcycle, Gustafsson’s shoes and several articles of clothing. A search of the area did not locate the victims’ clothing or personal items that were stolen.
In the 60 years since there have been a number of suspects identified by Finnish Detectives. There was a group of birdwatchers that stumbled on the scene but did not notice the carnage in front of them. Instead they thought the lifeless bodies were merely sunbathing and their attention was taken by the motorcycle before leaving the scene many hours before the police arrived. They think they may have seen a fair-haired person walking away from the tent at the time.
There was also a blonde man seen by a witness who was fishing at the inlet further down from the scene; this man remains a mystery to this day.
The first obvious suspect to speculate on is Gustafsson himself; so much in fact that he even went on trial for the slayings.
After the night in question Gustafsson was a bus driver and lived a fairly quiet life thereafter. However, in 2004–44 years after the event itself — Gustafsson was arrested and charged with a triple murder.
He was not heavily linked as a suspect during the period of 1960–2004 (at least as far as the public knew). According to prosecutors, Gustafsson had gotten drunk and after being excluded from the tent went into a rage and attacked his three friends from the outside and in the ensuing fight his jaw was then possibly broken. He then began to bludgeon and stab his three camping companions to death.
In October 7th 2005 Gustafsson was acquitted of murder and paid out a handsome compensation for the mental anguish suffered by the Finnish government.
The defence laid out the reasons as to why Gustafsson could not be guilty as the injuries suffered by Gustafsson were too vast to have been involved in the killing and he would’ve been incapable of doing so. Gustafsson was also found barefoot while the killer’s footprint was found 500 yards from the scene.
However the FBNI linked DNA bloodstain analysis of the three victims to Gustafsson. It was further contended that the more severe injuries to Maila Irmeli showed that this was as a result of an argument with Gustafsson and that Gustafsson’s girlfriend suffered the more savage killing while Gustafsson himself suffered the least brutality; suggesting that the murders were due to a domestic fight — a crime of passion.
It was always going to be difficult getting a conviction against Gustafsson given the length of time that has passed — even if he was guilty; interestingly enough it was the family of the victims that pushed on in the hope that Gustafsson would be found guilty. It suggests that the victim’s families all held Gustafsson accountable since 1960.
A local kiosk keeper known as the “Kioskman” was heavily linked to this murder. Karl Valdemar Gyllström was known to have a severely hostile approach to campers. Allegedly the Kioskman would throw rocks at campers, cut down tents and yell verbal abuse to anybody visiting Lake Bodom. It was suggested at the time that Gyllström was spotted by a witness coming back from the scene.
Tragedy occurred in 1969 when Karl Valdemar Gyllström drowned himself and now the potential of gaining DNA evidence is gone. It was the cursed Lake Bodom where Gyllström chose to kill himself — an ominous message perhaps?
It seems apparent that Finnish investigators dropped the ball by not following up on a lot of evidence to suggest that Kioskman was The Campsite Killer.
Another suspect was Pentti Soininen. Soininen had committed a ton of petty crimes throughout his life and was later convicted in the late 1960s. Allegedly while in jail Soininen confessed to the killings. A history of drugs, alcohol, mental illness and psychotic personality, the police did not pay dividend to the confession and highlight that Soininen is mentally unstable and therefore unreliable.
Soininen would later hang himself in a prison transport station in 1969. Another suicide linked to Bodom. Two suspects killing themselves after being heavily linked to the murders.
This is Finland nevertheless and suicide is unfortunately not a rarity there….
With a long history of antipathy between Finland and Russia/The Soviet Union; it was inevitable that a theory of Russian spies would emerge. Allegedly Hans Assman entered the Helsinki Surgical Hospital on the 6th June 1960 in a strange and dishevelled state. With black fingernails and his clothing covered in red marks — very possibly blood. Assman was both nervous and aggressive. The clothing worn by Assman matched the red and black description by Gustafsson and Assman’s once longer blonde hair was suddenly cut. Living within 5km of Bodom, Assman’s clothes were said to be stained at arrival to the Hospital.
Assman was a German immigrant living in Finland with links to serving in the Nazi’s SS and post-war joining the Russian KGB. Assman was also linked to two other unsolved murder cases and it could be a case of simply linking the German/Russian/Finnish spy to every unsolved homicide in Finland or maybe the Finnish detectives just like saying Assman.
Finally, there is the strange figure that appeared in photographs at the funeral and matched the description given by Gustafsson and the police sketches.
A seemingly brash act of mockery, to appear at the victim’s funeral after engaging in such a brutal and pointless act of murder. Within those eyes could lie the truth to the case.
Those dead eyes of sadistic savagery.
The case remains unsolved but is a very popular case for amateur sleuths attempting to solve the case and throw around theories. Many people scour the bottom of the lakes with metal detectors in the hope of finding clues and the murder weapons but thus far nothing has been found. The case has entered the popular consciousness of Finnish culture and there is even a rock band named Children of Bodom after the infamous case.
We know how those Finns love their heavy metal.