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The Lake Bodom Murders

Written By: Naomi

Trigger Warning: Murder, Death of Teenagers, allusion to sexual assault and Nazis


You may have heard of the metal band Children of Bodom and if you are a fan, you may know that the band named themselves after a very real crime that took place in 1960 that is famous in the band’s hometown of Espoo, Finland - some may argue that it is the most famous case in Finland.

The Lake Bodom murders took place on June 4th, 1960 when four friends decided to go camping on the shore of Lake Bodom. 15 year olds Maila Irmeli Björklund and Anja Tuulikki Mäki set out with their 18 year old boyfriends Seppo Antero Boisman and Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson, they set up camp at a well known and founded campsite along the shore and for the rest of the afternoon everything went smoothly as the two couples enjoyed their time in nature. They turned in for the night and slept blissfully until the early morning on June 5th when chaos broke out and would alter their lives forever.

Sometime between 4 am and 6 am the sleeping teenagers were stabbed multiple times and beaten, Maila, Anja, and Seppo were all killed in the tent. Nils survived and dragged himself out of the tent but he had suffered a concussion, a fractured jaw, broken and fractured facial bones, bruises to his face and a deep knife wound to his forehead.

The scene was spotted by a group of boys who had been bird watching at 6 am, they saw the collapsed tent and reported seeing a blonde man walking away from the scene. The bodies however were not discovered until 11 am and reported to police who arrived an hour later.

As the investigation began it became clear that the teenagers had not been attacked inside the tent but rather been stabbed and beaten through the outside of the tent with an unknown blunt object since the weapons were never recovered. Police noticed that certain items had been stolen from the group like the keys to their motorcycles, wallets, clothing, and a pair of shoes had been taken and hidden 500 meters away. Despite this being a crime scene, the police did not close off the area and allowed police and civilians to trample evidence; soldiers were also invited onto the crime scene to assist searching for other items that were missing but they were never recovered, police also failed to document the site or record certain details of the crime scene.

Maila had suffered the most injuries out of any of the teenagers, she had been stabbed repeatedly even after death and was found on top of the collapsed tent undressed from the waist down.

Police began to look intensely for the killer and had many suspects over the years. One of these suspects was Valdemar Gyllström, he was known by the locals as the, “kiosk man”. He was thought to be eccentric and they feared him, he ran a kiosk near the lake, only 800 meters from the murder scene in fact. Notably, he hated campers to a point of being outwardly hostile, becoming violent, cutting town tents and throwing rocks at them. The book by politician Ulf Johansson titled Legend of Bodom describes in depth how the locals felt, continue to feel, and more information on this suspect. At one point Valdemar confessed to the killing and had details about the murder but police dismissed it and said he was a disturbed individual or simply drunk despite the fact he had confessed to the murders on multiple occasions both drunk and sober. The locals did not agree and said that they saw him leaving the murder scene but were too afraid of him to report it. He “held the village in terror”, he would shoot his shotgun at those who would drive near the kiosk and since he knew teens would take apples off the trees near the kiosk he would hide razor blades in them. Valdemar had a well on his property that he filled in a few days after the murder, locals felt that he had likely thrown the murder weapons into the well before filling it, police searched the property and did not find anything incriminating.

Valdemar is believed to be mentally ill and was admitted to a mental hospital when he was in the military but it was never disclosed what he might have been suffering from, the author of the book mentions this information would become public in 2019 when his medical certificate would be released but at the time of writing this I could not find any such form, he was recorded having episodes of intense violence he would inflict on others broken up by periods of calmer, more average behavior where he was manipulative and inviting.

Some feel the police ignored further evidence that proved his involvement that was never shared with the public and did not investigate due to a language barrier. In 1969 a friend of Valdemar worried he would be the next to be killed after he took over the kiosk, Valdemar was now out of a job and asked his friend what he would do now to which his friend responded, "if it is you who have done (the murders) then I think you should drown yourself because you will spend the rest of your life in prison". Valdemar drowned in Lake Bodom a few hours later (9 years after the murders). Police never tested Valdemar’s DNA and felt it would be pointless to continue investigating a suspect who was dead.

When police had questioned Valdemar’s wife at the time of the murders she had provided an alibi, she had been home with him that night and they had stayed up all night together. Before her death Valdemar’s wife recanted, she explained that Valdemar had threatened to kill her should she tell the truth that he had not actually been at home.

Valdemar is the most accepted suspect locally but a lot of suspicion his been given to another man named Hans Assmann. Hans was an immigrant from Germany to Finland who later moved to Sweden. Like Valdemar there are books on Hans’ as a suspect in not only the Lake Bodom murders but in two other unsolved murders as well, one including the death of a 17 year old. Police did not believe Hans could be the killer as he had an alibi for when the murders took place; he had told them he was in Germany. Police did not investigate Hans even though he was documented arriving at a hospital in Helsinki, Finland the morning of the murder disheveled, being rude to hospital staff, and his clothing covered in red stains. The doctors were sure these stains were blood but when police checked back with Hans, they did not confiscate the stained clothing. He had been dressed similarly to the man seen leaving the scene of the crime and after the description of the man was released he cut off his hair.

Hans is a strange individual who called a police officer in 1997 to tell him his life story, he told the man that he had been a guard in Auschwitz and served in an SS Troop in WWII. He fell in love with a Jewish woman which made him disgusted in Nazism. He was discovered and sent to the front lines of the war where he was captured by Soviet soldiers and put in a prison camp. He chose to become a KGB Spy for the Soviet Union. The well accepted explanation now is that since Hans was an immigrant he was already very isolated and since he was a recluse and there were rumors of him being KGB spy people began to blame unsolved murders on him.

In 2004, 44 years after the murders, 63 year old Nils Gustafsson who had survived the attack was arrested and the case was declared closed. The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation declared that with new forensic analysis they were able to determine that Nils had been drunk on the night of the attack and had been pushed out of the tent and attacked by Seppo who broke his jaw. The fight escalated and Nils murdered his friends as a result. The trial was held on August 4th, 2005 and Nils lawyer argued that there was no way Nils could have killed three other people with the wounds he also had obtained and that his blood was also on the inside of the tent showing he had been attacked at the same time. However the prosecutors were looking to the shoes that had been found 500 yards away from the crime scene.

The shoes belonged to Nils and on them were the blood of the three murdered teenagers, but none of Nils’ blood. The prosecutor argued that Nils must have commit the murders, taken his shoes off and placed them down the beach, then inflicted the knife wounds to himself since the were noticeably less severe than the others They believed since his girlfriend Maila had been attacked the most severely this could have been passion driven and shortly after the murders Nils allegedly had told a police officer that he had committed the crime and was quoted saying, “What's done is done, I’ll get 15 years” but this had been dismissed as false perjury.

On October 7th, 2005 he was acquitted of all charges and found not guilty after there was insufficient evidence to convict. Nils was paid €44,900 for mental suffering (roughly $49,700).

To this day the Lake Bodom Murders remain unsolved and is used as a folktale to ensure children do not stay out late near Lake Bodom out of fear of the Bodom killer.

Sources: All that’s interesting, Screamfest, Legend of Bodom, r/ UnresolvedMysteries from u/KinkyLittleParadox

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