Posted on: October 31, 2016

The unsolved murders of 3 teenagers at a Finnish beauty spot in 1960 remains one of Finland’s biggest unsolved mysteries, even though there seems to be no shortage of credible suspects, deathbed confessions, suicides, and the trial, many years later, of the one survivor.   It is a crime which still haunts the area to this day.

On 4 June 1960 a small gang of youngsters arrived at Lake Bodom, near Espoo, about 22 kilometres from Helsinki, and set up camp.  They were two 18-year-old boys, Seppo Antero Boisman and Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson, and two 15-year-old girls, Maila Irmali Bjorklund and Anja Tuulkki Maki.  They were all savagely attacked between the hours of 4 AM and 6 AM on the following day, the 5th June.  It was established afterwards that whoever the attacker was, he didn’t actually enter the tent, but instead slashed at the victims through the tent from the outside.   Three of the young people, Maila, Seppo and Anja were killed by stabbing and bludgeoning.  Maila sustained the worst injuries.  She was found lying on top of the collapsed tent, naked from the waist down, and had sustained several knife wounds even after her death.

Nils Gustafsson was the only one of the 4 to survive the horrifying incident.  He sustained fractures to his jaw and facial bones, and bruising to his face.  He was also found lying on top of the tent.   He later claimed that he had no memory of the night’s events, but he had seen a vision of a black shape and red eyes coming for them, which led some in the area to surmise that the teenagers had been the victim of the Grim Reaper.

At about 6 AM a party of small boys were out bird-watching in the area, when they saw the tent collapse, and a blonde man walking away from the scene.   A few hours later, at 11 AM, the bodies were discovered by a carpenter called Risto Siren, who was out jogging in the area.  The police arrived at the scene an hour later at noon.  Several personal items were missing from the scene, including watches, wallets, two knives, a towel, a duffel-bag, and Seppo’s leather jacket.   As far as I know, these items have never been found.  Some of the victims clothes were later found partially-hidden 500 metres from the tent, these included Nils Gustafsson’s bloodstained shoes.  It is thought that the killer had been wearing them, due to the trail of blood and footprints.


One was Pentti Soininen, who was 15 at the time of the murders.  Soininen was a psychopathic thug,  convicted of theft, assault and robbery.   Whilst in prison he confessed to the murders.  Although interrogated by the police, they clearly didn’t give much weight to his confession, and said he was known to come out with strange, random stuff when he was drunk or on drugs.  Soininen hanged himself at a prison transport station in 1969, on the same date as the Lake Bodom murders had been committed.

Valdemar Gullstrom is thought to have been the inspiration behind the cult horror film Friday The  13th.  He was a campsite kiosk-keeper, from Oittaa, who had a pathological hatred of campers.  He was regarded as eccentric, and had been known to chuck stones at the bicycles of passing teenagers.   On one occasion he was sharing a sauna with a neighbour when he confessed to the murders, “I killed them”.  Gullstrom though seemed to have an iron-clad alibi for the night in question.  His wife verified that he had been home with her all night.  Later she made a deathbed confession that Gullstrom had coerced her into providing this alibi for him,  that he had threatened to kill her if she told the truth.   A lot has been made of the fact that Gullstrom filled in a well in his courtyard a few days after the murders, but nothing incriminating was found.   Shortly after his sauna confession, Gullstrom drowned himself in Lake Bodom.

If those two suspects weren’t weird enough, we now have Hans Assmann, a KGB spy who lived about 5 miles from the lake.  On 6th June he walked into Helsinki Surgical Hospital, looking dishevelled, with blackened fingernails, and clothes covered in red stains.  He seemed aggressive and nervous.  The police only questioned Assmann for a short while, and refused to take his clothes away for examination, even though the doctors said they were certain the stains were blood.  Assmann cut off his long-ish blond hair when he heard about the sighting of the mysterious blonde man was reported on the news.   Assmann committed suicide in 1972, apparently leaving a suicide note confessing to the crimes.

The mystery of the Lake Bodom Murders went cold for many years, until March 2004, when Nils Gustaffson, now a 62-year-old bus-driver, was arrested for the crime.  It was suspected that Nils had carried out the killings in a jealous rage, after Seppo had come on strong to Nils’ girlfriend, Maila.  It was certainly a fact that Maila had sustained the most savage injuries, and the fact that she had been viciously stabbed after she had died adds weight to the jealous boyfriend scenario.

The trial began on 4 August 2005.  Gustaffson’s defence argued that Nils would have been incapable of carrying out the attacks on the other three, given the extent of his own injuries, and that the attacks had been the work of one or more outsiders.  Gustaffson was acquitted of all charges on 7 October 2005, and was awarded over 44,000 Euros in damages for mental suffering, due to the long remand time.   Although I’ve seen some argue that Gustaffson was the most likely culprit, the general feeling in the area seems to have been that he was innocent.  A local shopkeeper in Espoo told the Guardian that “three generations of children have grown up being told not to stay out late for fear of the Bodom Murderer.  We feel that if it really was Gustaffson, the police would have charged him long ago”.

Short of any further evidence coming to light, or more deathbed confessions, the fate of the Children of Lake Bodom will remain a macabre mystery.



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