True Crime: Lake Bodom Murders

Crime scene tent (Those Conspiracy Guys)

June 5th, 1960. Teenagers Malia Björklund (15), Anja Mäki (15), Seppo Boisman (18), and Nils Gustafsson (18) were attacked by person or persons unknown at Lake Bodom, Finland. There are few facts to this case, as the only survivor, Gustafsson, suffered a concussion, fractures to the face and jaw bones, and several cuts and bruises. The other teens involved were all bludgeoned and stabbed to death. There was no weapon found on the scene. That’s a very quick run down of the case.

Crime scene photos show that the scene was an absolute bloody mess, and something akin to a horror movie. The attack took place between four and six AM, while the teens were sleeping in a single tent. The pictures show that the tent collapsed as the attacker(s) began the assault from the outside, stabbing or cutting through the canvas. The kids were assaulted with a blunt object and a knife. Strangely enough, their shoes and wallets were found some distance away from the campsite/crime scene. One can only imagine the sheer terror felt. To be woken up to an all out assault must have been more like a nightmare.

The crime is still unsolved though there have been a few suspects named. One suspect that had motive (albeit a rather weak one), and knew the area was a man named Valdemar Gyllström, who worked as the operator of a kiosk on the campsite. He was known to be unfriendly and disliked campers and teenagers. He was also known to have a well on his home property which he filled shortly after the murders. The idea is that the possible murder weapons were disposed of in said well. Not exactly a smoking gun but also definitely a strange thing to do, especially considering his reputation and work place. He became a viable suspect in 1969 when he made a drunken confession to his neighbours. Now, because he was under the influence his confession may not be taken as fact or a fair thing to hold against him. However, his wife argued that he was at home asleep with her on the night of the murders, and the police counted him out. His wife later said that Gyllström threatened her if she retracted her alibi. All of the evidence against Gyllström seems to be circumstantial, and he remains a prominent suspect.

Suspect sketch.

Around six on the morning after the murder, boys out birdwatching (it was the 60's), reported having seen a blonde figure leaving the area. Now, eyewitness accounts are often dubious at best. But a blonde figure tailors to the next suspect, Hans Assmann. Assmann has a curious history. Originally from Germany, he claims to have been a former SS officer and guard in Auschwitz. He then claimed that he was sent to the Eastern front and captured by Russian forces. Furthermore, he claims he became a KGB agent though there is no real reason to believe any of this is true. What’s more, Assmann is the suspect in other Finnish murders including that of a teenage girl run over on her bicycle, and two more girls out camping. He has not been convicted of any of these crimes but the coincidences make you wonder. There is also no real clear motive for Assmann to have committed any of these crimes.

Hans Assmann.

Assmann is also believed to have arrived at a Finnish hospital after the crime was committed with blood stains and dirty fingers. The doctors reported his behaviour to be anxious and aggressive. He apparently tried to lie about his name. He also shares an eerie resemblance to the suspect sketch.

The third suspect was the lone survivor of the attack, Nils Gustafsson. Over forty years later, Finnish police arrested him for the attack based on new evidence provided by DNA and blood sample analysis that was not available at the time. Police say his motive was jealousy, and that he flew into a rage while in the tent. Now, Gustafsson had injuries of his own. These, police say, were non life threatening and were caused by the other teenagers fighting back. How one young man was able to murder three of his friends is questionable, but Gustafsson was taken to court in 2005. He was acquitted of all charges and was awarded 44,000 for the pain and suffering caused by the accusations.

So how did three teenagers wind up dead after a night of camping? There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer and frankly, there might never be one.

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