The Lake Bodom Murders: Finland’s Most Famous Unsolved Triple Homicide
In the summer of 1960, four teenagers set out for sweetheart’s retreat by the coast of Finland’s Lake Bodom. Just one would return and 40 years later, become a suspect in the killing of his three friends. It was presumed to be a nice lakeside camping trip. Four teenagers set out on a sweetheart’s get away with the purpose of roughing it in a single tent perched on the banks of a serene lake. But by the following morning, three would be dead, the fourth brutally injured and the main suspect in what became known as the Lake Bodom Murders, Finland’s most popular unsolved murder.
▪️A Couple’s Trip Gone Wrong
On June 4, 1960, 15-year-olds Maila Irmeli Björklund and Anja Tuulikki Mäki of Espoo, Finland, set out for a camping trip. Accompanying the two young women were their 18-year-old boyfriends Seppo Antero Boisman and Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson. They had selected a well-known campsite on the shores of Bodominjärvi, known in English as Lake Bodom.
The arrival at the campsite and the next afternoon went smoothly as the youngsters enjoyed their time in nature. It wasn’t until the early hours of the following morning that tragedy struck. Nils Gustafsson, the only survivor of the occurrence, would tell the story hundreds of times over the next year, his story getting whirled wildly out of control various times over, but the facts stayed the same.
Sometime between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on the morning of June 5, Björklund, Mäki, and Boisman were stabbed and bludgeoned to death through their tent. An attempted assault on Gustafsson left him with a concussion, a fractured jaw, and numerous shattered facial bones. The dreadful scene was first stumbled upon by a group of bird-watching boys around 6 a.m. who saw the slain teenagers’ collapsed tent on the lakeshore. They also reported noticing a blonde man stepping away from it.
Mäki and Boisman’s corpses were discovered inside the tent, but Björklund, Gustafsson’s girlfriend, was discovered on top of the tent, nude from the waist down and lying next to Gustafsson. Björklund also was in the terrible state of the victims and had been stabbed even after her death. It wasn’t until 11 a.m. that the corpses would be found by a carpenter named Risto Siren. Instantly, Siren alerted the police who reached the scene around noon. By then, the victims of the Lake Bodom Murders had been dead for more than six hours.
▪️A Tumultuous And Botched Investigation
From the beginning, the crime scene was a confusing one. Rather than enter the tent and stab the teenagers from the inside, it seemed that the attacker had attacked blindly from outside the tent. He or she had utilized a knife to stab the victims but their corpses indicated evidence of another weapon, an unknown blunt object.
Furthermore, numerous strange items were missing from the scene, adding another layer of mystery to the crime. For instance, the keys to the teenager’s motorcycles were gone, but the motorcycles themselves hadn’t been taken. Gustafsson’s shoes were also missing, though were later discovered about half a mile from the tent along with parts of his clothes.
Later, the papers would lambast the police for their inadequate handling of the case from this point on. The police reportedly failed to take official recordings of their findings and did not cordon off the region, leaving it open to contamination. Soon after the police left, curious spectators and careless campers all but eradicated the murder scene. In a try to rectify their mistake, police enlisted the assistance of soldiers to search for the missing items. The site was rather further crushed, and most of the items were never discovered.
▪️Suspects In The Lake Bodom Murders
The first suspect in the killings was Karl Valdemar Gyllström, known in the local community as “Kioskman” because he owned and operated a nearby stall.
Gyllström’s kiosk near Lake Bodom was visited often by campers. Nonetheless, he was known for being aggressive towards them, and observers claimed to have noticed him cut down tents and throw rocks at hikers over the years. Some even posited that they saw him leave the killing scene, but then claimed to have been too scared of him to alert the authorities. Gyllström allegedly made many admissions in which he showed knowledge of the crime both drunkenly and sober, though they were all dismissed by police.
Nine years after the Lake Bodom Murders, Gyllström drowned in Lake Bodom, likely by suicide, providing DNA evidence as requested by many authorities over the years difficult to gather.
The second suspect stayed with attention until 2004. His name was Hans Assmann and he was rumored to be a former KGB spy living very near to the shores of Lake Bodom. Over the years, Assmann received a reputation as somewhat of a recluse and combined with the KGB rumors consequently resulted in him being suspected in many murders, though none of the accusations stuck.
But Hans Assmann had gone into the Helsinki Surgical Hospital the day after the assault with fingernails black with dirt and his clothing covered in red stains. Hospital staff reported that Assman was uncomfortable and aggressive, but other than quick questioning, the police did not seek Assmann any further as they claimed that he had a strong alibi in regards to the Lake Bodom murders.
Assman’s stained clothes were never investigated despite doctors arguing that it was blood. Assman also fitted a description of the blonde man leaving the scene and cutting his hair soon following a newspaper article detailing the case came out.
Eventually, police made an arrest 44 years after the killings. In March of 2004, Nils Gustafsson, the sole survivor of the Lake Bodom Murders, was caught and brought to trial. Police claimed to have suspected Gustafsson all along and argued that there was an indication to support their claims. For one, police claimed that Gustafsson’s shoes had been worn by the murderer during the assault, evidenced by the fact they were covered in the victims’ blood – but not Gustafsson’s. During the trial, the prosecution spun a story involving a battle between Gustafsson and Boisman, which ended in the triple homicide.
The prosecution claimed Gustafsson had gotten drunk and thus exiled from the tent. When Bosman tried to talk to him, a fight had ensued that Boisman allegedly won, resulting in Gustafsson’s fractured jaw and broken facial bones. Furious at the fight, Gustafsson must have gone back to the tent, and in blind anger, murdered his girlfriend and two friends. Then, he inflicted the rest of the superficial stab wounds on himself, attempted to hide his shoes, and orchestrated the rest of the crime scene.
The fact that the young birdwatchers who initially discovered the site claimed to have noticed a man leaving the area backed up the prosecution’s claims.
Gustafsson’s defense, nonetheless, rejected this story, claiming that if Boisman and Gustafsson actually had gotten in a battle, Gustafsson would have been too injured to viciously kill his friends, let alone walk more than half a mile round trip to hide his shoes.
Eventually, the defense won and a year after he was caught, Gustafsson was acquitted of all charges. To this day, nonetheless, the suspicion stays. No further suspect has been named, no further evidence has been discovered, and the Lake Bodom Murders stay Finland’s most horrific and longest unsolved crime.