Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case

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The Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case (Icelandic: Guðmundar- og Geirfinnsmálið) is a case concerning the disappearances of Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson in 1974 in Iceland. Six people were convicted of their alleged murders on the basis of confessions extracted by the police after intense and lengthy interrogations despite the lack of bodies of the murder victims, witnesses or any forensic evidence.[1] In later years, most Icelanders believe the six were wrongfully convicted.

On 27 September 2018, 44 years after the disappearances of Guðmundur and Geirfinnur, the Supreme Court of Iceland acquitted five of the six original suspects.[1]

Disappearances[edit]

On the night of 26 January 1974, Guðmundur Einarsson, an 18-year-old casual labourer, was walking back from the community hall (Alþýðuhúsið) in Hafnarfjörður to his home, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away.[2] He was last seen by a motorist after he nearly fell in front of a vehicle and has not been seen since.[2] Ten months later, on 19 November 1974, Geirfinnur Einarsson, a 32-year-old construction worker unrelated to Guðmundur, received a phone call whilst at home and drove a short distance to the harbour cafe in Keflavik.[2] He left the keys in the ignition, but failed to return to the car.[2]

Extensive searches around the harbour and coast did not find a body, and, although the police in Iceland regularly are informed about people who disappear in snowstorms without motive, witnesses, forensic evidence or bodies,[3] a murder enquiry was opened.[2]

The Icelandic Police were under intense public, media and justice pressure to solve these cases.[4][5]

Investigation and prosecutions[edit]

Six suspects, Sævar Ciesielski, Kristjan Vídar Vídarsson, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Albert Klahn Skaftason, Guðjón Skarphéðinsson and Erla Bolladóttir, eventually signed confessions to murder, even though they had no clear memory of committing the crimes.[5] They had been kept in isolation, interviewed at length under pressure with little contact allowed with their lawyers. They were given drugs (Mogadon, diazepam and chlorpromazine[3]) and subjected to sleep deprivation and water torture[6][7], particularly the alleged ringleader, Sævar Ciesielski, who had a fear of water. He also said that the drugs which were supposed to help him sleep had affected his memory. The suspects said they signed the confessions in order to put an end to their solitary confinement.[2] For example, Erla Bolladóttir was held in solitary confinement for 242 days and two were kept under solitary confinement for over 600 days,[3] one of whom, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson was kept under solitary confinement for 655 days - the longest solitary confinement outside of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp[8] and Sævar Cieselski was kept in custody for a total of 1533 days.[9]

In 1976, Einar Bollason, the chairman of the Icelandic Basketball Federation, sat innocent for 105 days in solitary confinement, along with Magnús Leópoldsson, Valdimar Olsen and Sigurbjörn Eiríksson, after Einar's half-sister, Erla Bolladóttir, and other suspects had implicated them in the case.[10][11][12]

Sævar Marinó, Kristján Viðar and Tryggvi Rúnar were convicted for killing Guðmundur while Albert Klahn was convicted for helping to hide the body. Sævar Marinó, Kristján Viðar and Guðjón were later convicted for killing Geirfinnur Einarsson while Erla Bolladóttir was convicted of perjury after she implicated her half-brother and others in the disappearance.[13][14]

Aftermath[edit]

In a speech in Alþingi in 1998, then prime minister of Iceland, Davíð Oddsson, heavily criticized the investigation and prosecution of the case after the Supreme Court of Iceland ruled that it could not rehear the case.[15] In 2018 it was revealed that Davíð had given Sævar financial support and advice to help him get the case reheard.[16][17]

Tryggvi Rúnar died in 2009, after battling cancer,[18] while Sævar Ciesielski died after an accident in Denmark in 2011.[19]

The case was made public in a BBC radio programme in May 2014, which discussed the apparent memory implantation.[20] Professor Gísli Guðjónsson, a former Icelandic detective and internationally renowned expert on suggestibility and false confessions, investigated this case and concluded: "I've worked on miscarriages of justice in many different countries. I've testified in several countries - hundreds of cases I’ve done, big cases. I'd never come across any case where there had been such intense interrogation, so many interrogations and such lengthy solitary confinement. I mean I was absolutely shocked when I saw that."[2]

Most Icelanders came to believe the case had been a bad miscarriage of justice,[3] and the BBC described it as "one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice Europe has ever witnessed."[21]

Retrial[edit]

In 2013, an official police investigation report was handed to the office of the State Prosecutor. On February 24, 2017, the Interior Ministry's Rehearing Committee concluded that the cases of Sævar Ciesielski, Kristján Viðar Viðarsson, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Albert Klahn Skaftason and Guðjón Skarphéðinsson should be reheard by the Supreme Court of Iceland.[22] However, the committee did not recommend a retrial for Erla Bolladóttir's perjury case.

In February 2018, the State Prosecutor requested that the Icelandic Supreme Court acquit Sævar Ciesielski, Kristján Viðar Viðarsson, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Albert Klahn Skaftason, Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, and Erla Bolladóttir.[3][9] On 27 September 2018, the Supreme Court acquitted all five men, but did not reverse Erla Bolladóttir's conviction.[1][23]

Films[edit]

A documentary directed by Dylan Howitt called Out of Thin Air came out in 2017.[24] The film was inspired by the BBC programme.[8] An Icelandic film called Imagine Murder (Icelandic: Lifun) was being made about the case in 2017. Directed by Egill Örn Egilsson,[25] the film was scheduled to premiere in 2019.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sunna Kristín Hilmarsdóttir (27 September 2018). "Allir sýknaðir í Guðmundar- og Geirfinnsmálunum". Vísir.is. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Cox, Simon (September 2018) [2014-05-15]. "The Reykjavik Confessions" (interactive feature). BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2018-10-07.
  3. ^ a b c d e McConnachie, James (2018-03-11). "Book review: Out of Thin Air by Anthony Adeane; The Reykjavik Confessions by Simon Cox". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-03-17. (Subscription required (help)).
  4. ^ Latham, Jack (2016-09-25). ""Sugar Paper Theories" and the Reykjavik Confessions". Innocent. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  5. ^ a b Milne, Richard (2016-08-26). "Shades of grey: those who confessed to a crime they don't remember". The Financial Times. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  6. ^ Roberts, Sophie (2017-08-13). "Six people confessed to a murder they may NOT have committed". The Sun. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  7. ^ Glynne, Andy (2017-08-17). "The Story Of The Biggest Criminal Investigation In Iceland's History". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  8. ^ a b Cocozza, Paula (2017-08-04). "'Deep down, I knew it didn't happen': The woman whose memory invented a murder story". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  9. ^ a b Ástvaldsson, Jóhann Páll (2018-02-21). "Aquittal Requested in Unsolved Murder Case". Iceland Review. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  10. ^ Ólafur Ragnarsson (12 May 1976). "Sífellt klifað á því, að ég byggi yfir ákveðinni vitneskju". Vísir (in Icelandic). pp. 8–9. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  11. ^ "Hef meiri tíma með hestunum". Vísir.is (in Icelandic). April 1, 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Ferðin sem aldrei var farin". Dagblaðið (in Icelandic). 11 May 1976. p. 8. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  13. ^ Brynjólfur Þór Guðmundsson (27 September 2018). "Bæði glöð og hrygg eftir dóminn". RÚV (in Icelandic). Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Krefst sýknu að öllu leyti". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 21 February 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Ekki eitt dómsmorð heldur mörg". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 7 October 1998. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  16. ^ Birgir Olgeirsson (25 July 2018). "Davíð styrkti Sævar um „væna" fjárhæð". Vísir.is (in Icelandic). Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  17. ^ Freyr Gígja Gunnarsson (25 July 2018). "Davíð Oddsson styrkti Sævar Ciesielski". RÚV (in Icelandic). Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson: Taldi skynsamlegt að játa rangar sakargiftir". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 25 February 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  19. ^ "Sævar Ciesielski er látinn". Vísir.is (in Icelandic). 14 July 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  20. ^ Zoe Williams, The Reykjavik Confessions, The Guardian, UK, 16 May 2014
  21. ^ "Storyville Trailer, Out of Thin Air: Murder in Iceland". BBC Four. 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  22. ^ "Iceland's most famous disappearance case back to court next week". Iceland Monitor. 2017-08-10. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  23. ^ "All found innocent in Guðmundur and Geirfinns case, 44 years after the supposed crimes were committed". Iceland Monitor. Morgunblaðið. 27 September 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  24. ^ "Iceland's most famous disappearance case back to court next week". Morgunblaðið. 10 August 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  25. ^ "Imagine Murder". KISI - The Icelandic Film Company. 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  26. ^ "Kvikmynd um Geirfinnsmálið í fullri lengd". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). 23 May 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017.

External links[edit]

  • An End To The Never-Ending Nightmare? Article by Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson, published in The Reykjavík Grapevine, April 15, 2013.
  • The Reykjavik Confessions: The Incredible True Story of Iceland’s Most Notorious Murder Case, Simon Cox, BBC Books, ISBN 978-1785942884, 22 Mar. 2018.
  • Out of Thin Air: A True Story of Impossible Murder in Iceland, Anthony Adeane, Quercus Publishing Plc, UK ISBN 9781786487469, 13 Mar. 2018.