It is now over thirty years since the brutal killing of Anne Stine Geisler, a murder that shocked Danish society. The nature of the crime, including evidence of sadism and torture, made revolting reading. Possibly linked to one of Denmark’s most notorious serial killers, the slaying of an 18-year-old woman in her own basement remains unsolved to this day.
Anne Stine Geisler seemingly had her entire life in front of her. Intelligent and stunningly attractive, the 18-year-old was studying political science at Denmark’s Aarhus University. She had become acquainted with Crown Prince Frederik during her time at the prestigious Krebs School, an institution popular with the upper classes and royalty. Frederik was said to be deeply shaken by events to come, with Geisler’s father having also been Prince Frederik’s math teacher. The prince is regularly invoked concerning the case by the tabloid press, despite not being seen as a close friend or suspect. The two graduated to different high schools.
Stine was well-liked and popular, being described as both happy and thoughtful. However, it was on June 4, 1990, that she would go missing while walking home from Copenhagen’s extensive Pentecost celebrations. In Denmark, these celebrations are the third biggest during the year. They are celebrated over two days — Pinsedag (Whit Sunday) and 2. Pinsedag (Whit Monday). Geisler had been attending a friend’s birthday party the same night, with some of the group deciding to travel to a carnival in Copenhagen’s city centre around midnight. It was a rainy night, and Geisler bicycled all the way there. By 2am, she decided to head home and took her bicycle, taking a route along the canal at Gammel Strand.
“She was a shining creature. She was fun-loving and with a huge interest in the outside world. I still don’t understand who could hurt my beloved daughter.”
Kirsten, Stine’s mother, New Idea
Stine lived in an apartment above her parents in the Teglgårdsstræde region of the city and had an agreement that she would post a note through their door to say she had returned home safe. The message never came. When Stine couldn’t be found the following day for a planned family lunch in South Zealand, her parents began frantic calls to friends, family and acquaintances and around 6pm that same day, their desperation would have a tragic ending. A chef entered the basement of the building, regularly using the space as a changing room for her work at a restaurant situated on the ground floor. There, she discovered the body of Geisler.
The body was fully clothed, wearing the same cognac-coloured leather coat, short skirt, yellow stockings and burgundy-coloured shoes as the previous evening. She had her hands tied behind her back with black cord, the rope also looping around her neck and connected to a door handle, if she had moved she would have been strangled. Her face and neck also featured several incisions made with either a knife or shards of glass. Two dishrags were stuffed in her mouth. On her arm, what appeared to be the letters “PK” had been cut into the skin. A pack of condoms laid underneath the woman and bone wax had been poured all over the body. Despite the presence of the condoms, no evidence of rape or sexual assault was found.
An autopsy subsequently concluded that Stine had died of suffocation after the dishcloths had pressed her tongue down her own throat, cutting off her air supply. Police believe that Geisler was surprised by the killer and dragged down to the basement where he improvised, the rope and other instruments used in the killing having already been found in the basement. Some suggested there may have been a ritual element to the killing, the cutting of the arm and use of bone wax indicating this. Others believed the wax was an attempt to remove forensic traces from the scene. A police profile described the killer as a “sadistic and perverted person who enjoys abusing and humiliating women”.
Opening a murder enquiry, Danish police quickly discovered that Stine had an eventful private life, frequenting several cafes and bars where she met men and engaged in relationships, the details being meticulously detailed in her diary. One such location was the bohemian Sabine’s Cafeteria, a haunt for many actors, filmmakers, writers and journalists. One relationship she had seemingly developed through the café caught the eye of police, being with a married 40-year-old journalist, a man 22 years her senior. The journalist worked for one of Copenhagen’s major morning newspapers. He was quickly brought in for questioning, and readily admitted the relationship. He was dismissed when he presented a watertight alibi for the night in question.
However, he was far from the only man in her life with witnesses saying she’d been in the company of a different man the night before the Pentecost celebrations, arguing with him at Sabine’s. Geisler was also seen on the day itself taking lunch with a man at her workplace, Café Wilder. The man as described as young, average looking and with short hair and an unshaven face. Again, the man was quickly identified and eliminated from enquiries when it became clear his alibi was solid. He was described variously as both sweet and charming, or unpleasant and horrible. He seemed to divide opinion amongst many and lived in the same street as the Geisler family. Yet another man was never identified. A security guard said that he had seen a man in leather trousers outside the Geisler residence the night the victim went missing. Another said that a man matching the same description was loitering outside Christianshavns Gymnasium a few days before Stine was killed.
Police began to move away from the theory that Anne Stine Geisler was killed by an acquaintance and began to suspect she had been killed by a stalker or an opportunistic sex criminal. One suspect began to stand out. Known as “Mr Smiley”, then 28-year-old Peter Kronholm was living at a commune not far from where Geisler was killed and had previous convictions for aggravated assault, abuse and various frauds. He was questioned several times and had no alibi for his whereabuts after 1am. He also had the initials PK, the same lettering seemingly cut into Stine Geisler’s arm and had been seen on the night of the murder at Café Floss, just a short distance from the basement where Stine Geisler was murdered. Following the killing, he moved quickly from the area.
Kronholm would go on to become one of Denmark’s most notorious killers. Described as cynical and brutal, he was charming and polite to women he met around Copenhagen, yet also violent, controlling and a future brothel owner. In 1994, he murdered his girlfriend Anette Enevoldsen, a young stockbroker. He had told a web of lies about his life, giving an image of respectability before being exposed. Anette ended the relationship, and an enraged Kronholm beat her with a hammer before strangling her. Two years prior, another girlfriend of Kronholm, Charlotte Machon-Fellov, vanished into thin air. She hasn’t been seen since and “Mr Smiley” is suspected of her murder. Despite suspicions, police had nothing to link Kronholm to the Stine Geisler crime scene and no real motive, with sexual assault unable to be proven by the pathologist.
In 2003, he was amazingly released on parole and established a brothel at his apartment in the Østerbro area of the city. He employed a receptionist and prostitute to work at the establishment, with both living in fear of him. On one occasion, the receptionist went to pick up her salary from his apartment, and Kronholm attacked her. She was handcuffed, had her mouth taped and was thrown down on a bed. The killer pulled a plastic bag over her head, intending to suffocate her, even tying a rope around her neck. The assault only ended when the victim’s phone rang, and it became clear she had a friend waiting just down the road. In 2006, “Mr Smiley” attempted to murder a witness to one of his other many crimes, blasting him twice with a shotgun after a kidnapping. Kronholm was released in 2019.
Kronholm is almost certainly a serial killer and may be linked to other killings in Copenhagen during the 1990s. Around the time of the murder, there were five other killings of women in the city, all unsolved. Two of these killings, Edith André in 1987 and Lene Rasmussen in 1990 were attributed to serial rapist Marcel Hansen, aka the Amager Man, being convicted of the slayings in 2011. Some believe that Hansen is also in the frame for the Geisler killing, however, while the murder Edith André involved the victim being attacked in her own home, there is little else to suggest a link. Both women were manually strangled by Hansen and had money and jewellery stolen from their person. A subsequent search for DNA on the clothes of Geisler didn’t turn up a match. However, Hansen is noted as using the same unusual wrist to neck technique of tying up his victims that was seen with Stine Geisler.
In all, 4,000 people were questioned about the case, with the police coming up empty-handed. The affair remained a top priority for police in Copenhagen for years after the killing, with Detective Inspector Ove Dahl leading inquiries, then being the head of homicide. Dahl believes that Hansen is responsible, saying: “I can not prove it, but the suspicion will always be there because he was active in those years,”
“It’s the ultimate crime. No one has heard or seen anything in the case. But the perpetrator must never have peace. My greatest hope, of course, is that the case will be resolved.”
Detective Inspector Ove Dahl
Dahl believes that the killing was likely an opportunistic attack with a sexual motive, with Stine unlikely to have known her killer. In 2012, it was reported that police had succeeded in obtaining a DNA profile of the murderer, bringing suspicion on both Hansen and Kronholm into doubt.
“I think Stine Geisler was killed because she was so unlucky. She met a psychopathic power-hungry person who wanted to have a sexual relationship with her through violence and force. It was not just anyone we were looking for”
Detective Inspector Ove Dahl
The murder of Stine Geisler was a killing that shocked Copenhagen and Denmark, the brutality of the killing seeming to suggest a level of confidence and danger that would lead to more crimes in the future. This was likely to be far from a first attack. Those beliefs may have been proven right should either of the two most likely suspects, Kronholm and Hansen, be responsible. However, while both are heavily suspected, there is positives and negatives with both theories. While Hansen was known to tie his victims the same way as Geisler, for example, his other crimes bear little similarity. While Kronholm’s violence against women is apparent and he shares the initials seemingly carved into Stine’s arm, his known and suspected killings are of women he knew personally, often in a fit of rage. However, it seems likely that Kronholm is the best fit for the crime, not only being in the near vicinity at the time but moving away in haste afterwards.
The possibility exists that a killer may have slipped entirely under the radar, never being looked at for the crime. The killing has unique features, none of which have seemingly been repeated in any other crime. While it may have been a single killing, the perpetrator satisfied, incarcerated or dead, that seems unlikely. He will have struck again. With other killings from the period still unsolved, the potential that a serial killer got away and continues to stalk the streets of Copenhagen is the fear that overshadows the entire case.
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