Lake Bodom murders

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Lake Bodom murders
Bodomjarvi talvella.jpg
Lake Bodom in 2004
LocationEspoo, Finland
DateSunday, June 5, 1960
Attack type
WeaponsKnife, blunt instrument
Non-fatal injuries

Coordinates: 60°14′30″N 24°40′30″E / 60.24167°N 24.67500°E / 60.24167; 24.67500

The Bodominjärvi Murders is the most famous unsolved homicide case in Finnish criminal history. On June 5, 1960, at Bodom Lake, 15-year-old females, Maila Irmeli Björklund and Anja Tuulikki Mäki, and 18-year-old male, Seppo Antero Boisman, were killed while sleeping inside a tent by stabbing and blunt force trauma to their heads. The fourth youth, then 18-years-old, Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson, was found outside of the tent badly injured. Despite extensive investigations, the perpetrator was never identified, and various types of theories were presented on the killer. Gustafsson was unexpectedly arrested on suspicion of murder in 2004, but he was released the following year. The identity of Bodominjärvi's murderer has not been discovered.[1]

The murders[edit]

On Saturday, June 4, 1960, four Finnish teenagers had decided to camp along the shore of Lake Bodom (Finnish: Bodominjärvi, Swedish: Bodom träsk), near the city of Espoo's Oittaa Manor. Maila Irmeli Björklund and Anja Tuulikki Mäki were fifteen years old at the time; accompanying them were their eighteen-year-old boyfriends, Seppo Antero Boisman and Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson.[2][3][4]

Sometime between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM (EET) during the early morning hours of Sunday, June 5, 1960, Mäki, Björklund and Boisman were all stabbed and bludgeoned to death by an unknown assailant. Gustafsson, the only survivor of the massacre, sustained a concussion, fractures to the jaw and facial bones and bruises to the face, but lived. He stated that he had seen a vision of black and bright red clothed attacker coming for them.[2][4]

At about 6:00 AM, a number of boys birdwatching some distance away had reportedly seen the tent collapsed and a blonde man walking away from the murder scene.[3][4] The bodies of the victims were discovered at about 11:00 AM by a carpenter named Risto Sirén. Upon his discovery of the bodies, he subsequently alerted the police, who arrived on the scene at noon.[3]

Initial investigation[edit]

The tent is investigated immediately after the murders.

The killer had not injured the victims from inside the tent, but instead had attacked the occupants from outside with a knife and an unidentified blunt instrument through the sides of the tent. The murder weapons have never been located.[4] The killer had taken several items which detectives found puzzling, including the keys to the victims' motorcycles, which themselves had been left behind. Gustafsson's shoes were later discovered partially-hidden approximately 500 meters from the murder site. The police did not seal the site nor record the details of the scene (later seen as a major error) and almost immediately allowed a crowd of police officers and other people to trample over and disturb the vital evidence. The mistake was further exacerbated by calling in soldiers to assist with the search around the lake for the missing items, several of which were never found.[4]

Björklund, Gustafsson's girlfriend, was found undressed from the waist down and was lying on top of the tent, and had suffered the most injuries out of all of the victims. She was stabbed multiple times after her death, whilst the other two teenagers were slain with less brutality. Gustafsson was also found lying on the top of the tent.[4]


There have been numerous suspects during the investigation of Lake Bodom murders, but these suspects are the most notable.

Valdemar Gyllström[edit]

Many local people suspected Karl Valdemar Gyllström, a kiosk keeper from Oittaa known to have been hostile towards campers. Police found no hard evidence to link him to the actual murders. They were skeptical of supposed confessions he was said to have made because they considered him disturbed. He drowned in Lake Bodom in 1969, most likely by suicide. The people in the town knew Gyllström was violent, cut down tents, threw rocks at people who came to his street, and some have later said that it was Gyllström they saw coming back from the murder scene but were too afraid to call the police about him. The police never did any DNA tests from Gyllström and it is now too late, but a book released in 2006 brings up the theory in detail. The book also claims that the police almost immediately ignored much more evidence that was previously unknown to the public because of language barriers, among other things.[5]

Hans Assmann[edit]

Most public suspicion focused on Hans Assmann, who lived several kilometers from the shore of Lake Bodom. A series of popular books promulgated a theory of Assmann committing the Bodom killings, and other murders. It was not taken seriously by police, who had evidence that he had been in Germany at the time.

The arrest and trial of Nils Gustafsson[edit]

In late March 2004, almost 44 years after the event, Gustafsson (not a suspect in the case as far as the public knew) was arrested. In early 2005, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation declared the case was solved based on new forensic analysis. According to the statement, Gustafsson had been drunk and excluded from the tent when he attacked the other boy, getting his jaw broken in a fight which escalated into him committing three murders.

The trial started on August 4, 2005. Gustafsson's defense lawyer argued that the murders were the work of one or more outsiders and that Gustafsson would have been incapable of killing three people given the extent of his injuries. It had always been known that the shoes worn by the killer and left by him 500 yards away belonged to Gustafsson, who was found barefoot. The significance of modern DNA analysis for the prosecution was it showed that the three murdered victims' blood was on the shoes, but Gustafsson's was completely absent. The prosecution said it followed that Gustafsson must have been stabbed at a different time to the attack on the murdered victims, and that the only explanation of this was that Gustafsson's knife wounds had been self-inflicted after he committed the murders and took his shoes off. The prosecution attempted to bolster their case with an identification by two birdwatchers of Gustafsson as the man they observed at the scene on the crime, and an assertion that while in custody he had made an incriminating remark.[6] On October 7, 2005, Gustafsson was acquitted of all charges.[6] The State of Finland paid him 44,900 for the mental suffering caused by the long remand time, but he was refused permission to sue Finnish newspapers for defamation.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Jorma Palo and Matti Paloaro wrote three books about the murders.

  • Palo, Jorma: Bodomin arvoitus. WSOY, 2003 (The mystery of Bodom)
  • Palo, Jorma & Paloaro, Matti: Luottamus tai kuolema! Hans Assmannin arvoitus. Tammi, 2004 (Assurance or death! The mystery of Hans Assmann)
  • Palo, Jorma: Nils Gustafsson ja Bodomin varjo. WSOY, 2006 (Nils Gustafsson and the shadow of Bodom)


  1. ^ Palo, Jorma. Bodomin arvoitus. Helsinki: WSOY, 2003. - p.8. - ISBN 978-951-0-27893-2.
  2. ^ a b "Lake Bodom Murders – We visited where everything happened |..." 2015-02-13. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  3. ^ a b c Vidani, Peter. "The Lake Bodom Murders". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The Lake Bodom murders". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Court finds Gustafsson not guilty of 1960 Bodom Lake triple murder Archived June 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.