The Avenger. A Finnish true crime story.

The following is a strange true crime story from the history of Finland. The text is from the book Poliisi kertoo 1985, and was translated by Salla Juntunen.

The term “troll” is now widely used in reference to Internet harassment, and Internet “trolls” are everywhere.

This is the story of a particularly creepy “troll” from before the Internet age.


All names in this story have been changed, but the facts remain the same. Imagine how you would act if one day you received a letter in which you and your loved ones are insulted in every possible way. In addition, the letter threatens your life, the safety of your children on their way to school and threatens to set a bomb behind your door. Furthermore, the letter says your spouse has had intercourse with people you both know…

Out of anger and due to the feces included in the letter you might throw it away, but after reading the letter again and deeming the sender to be someone you know, possibly even a member of parliament, you keep it for now. You inspect the letter further and discover that its signature has been confirmed with a stamp. The letter has been paid for with a meter stamp, and, as far as you know, those cannot be owned by private persons, only institutions and companies.

The letter is in your possession for a few days. You wonder if there is some truth to the death threat. After your children get home from school you call them and ask if anything strange has happened to them. At the same time you hear of a mail delivery which can be picked up at the post office. Once you go to pick up the delivery, you see that it is a book set. You reproach your spouse for ordering more books; you have too many of them anyway.

Over the next few days you get more deliveries. You ask the post office to return them to the sender with notes that there must have been some mistake because you haven’t ordered anything. Magazines and comics start arriving daily. You also get phone calls telling you about for-sale ads posted in your name in nationwide newspapers. You also get letters from sexual deviants and in time you find out that your name has been used to seek company on the dating ad columns of men’s magazines.

Your patience begins to run out. You take the information you’ve gathered and go to your local police station. You hear that other people have also received similar letters and deliveries. You list the people you suspect, namely your neighbours and someone from work, because the first letters contained details about your family.

You go home, relieved, because you have given the police good leads and the matter will surely be handled in no time. Possibly already the next day the phone rings. The call, however, is from the collection agency of a large publishing house and the caller is asking about your unpaid orders. You begin to explain, but they don’t believe you and instead the caller threatens you with forcible collection unless you pay your bills by the due date. There are similar calls from many companies.


Years of suffering

This goes on for years. You get frustrated with the police who don’t seem to be doing anything about it. You still go to work the next day in high spirits. You get a call to go see your boss immediately. Your boss thinks you are playing dumb, but immediately informs you that you have sent a libelous and feces stained letter to the general director of the company. Your explanations are not believed and you have to give a written answer, and you offer to give a handwriting sample while you’re at it. Your coworkers hear that you had to give a written explanation for having insulted the higher-ups of the company.

The torment continues. You get called in to a clinic for AIDS testing and the appointment has already been booked. The phone rings and when you pick up you hear an angry parent threaten you with legal action and the police because according to a letter received by the caller you have molested their underage children. You keep trying to explain. The railway station calls to inform you that the 150 kilograms heavy weightlifting equipment you ordered have arrived. Matkahuolto informs you that the furniture you ordered have arrived. The phone even rings during the night, but once you pick up, the call disconnects.

In the morning the doorbell rings. Your spouse goes to open. An acquaintance of yours gives their condolences with flowers and leaves sympathetically. Only after receiving more condolences on the phone you find out that your obituary has been published in the day’s newspaper. The activity continues…

Foul, disgusting, sick…

The avenger kept sending letters containing extremely foul text. Often they also included feces. The avenger marked someone the recipient knew or should have known as the sender. The letters often mentioned that first the recipient would have items ordered for them, then they would be signed up for a sexual deviants’ clubs, then shot, etc. When the recipient began receiving deliveries and such, they would start to wonder whether the threats also come true as the letters said. After all, the first phase had already happened.

The letters also included pictures cut from porn magazines. The photos often featured comments about the resemblance between the recipient’s face and the private parts of the woman in the picture. The envelopes were clean and they had often been stamped with some company’s or community’s name or logo. Postage had mainly been paid by counterfeit meter stamps. The meter stamps were so well made that none of them were intercepted at the post office even though there were hundreds of deliveries. In addition, the avenger drew and pressed some stamps with plates they had made.

The Avenger also ordered items. It was easy and cheap because nearly every magazine has mail order coupons whose postage is paid by the recipient. There are also coupon booklets containing dozens of coupons. Items ranging anywhere from pens to washing machines were sent. The recipient of the orders was left in the lurch with cancellations, and companies suffered losses from postal charges, packaging, etc.

The Avenger posted newspaper ads under other people’s names. One person’s apartment, for example, was visited by approximately 200 people seeking to rent it on a Sunday.

The Avenger also made packages. They filled them with tights, bloody tampons, metal junk, pieces of cord and shell casings, among others. They took the packages to the neighbouring stairways of the recipient. Often the packages were handled as bombs, because they truly looked like ones when x-rayed.

Foul, disgusting or sick. Whichever it is, the things recounted here happened to several dozens of Finns between the years of 1974 and 1984. The full number of the targets may never be discovered as some who received only singular letters disposed of the materials they received and never reported it to the police. There is, however, knowledge of several hundreds of victims.

Leaker of information

Tiina Kiviharju was one of the people who did report the events. Tiina was working at a branch office of a major banking group in the outskirts of Helsinki. As a teller, Tiina was extremely conscientious and exact at her job and as such was well liked among her coworkers. Tiina’s home life was also doing fine. She was happily married and was expecting her first baby, which was due to arrive in June 1978.

The leader of said office was bank manager Riipinen who one morning received a letter that on the outside appeared to be perfectly normal. Upon opening the envelope, however, Riipinen changed his mind. He read the letter slowly and carefully seeing the seriousness of the matter. The letter insinuated that mrs Kiviharju had sold information covered by bank secrecy about the bank’s clients to third parties. The evidence was airtight, according to the letter. The letter stated that the writer considered it their duty to report the crime to the police and make a complaint to the bank’s general director. The letter was signed, but so illegibly that one couldn’t make out the name. Riipinen could already see his career development grinding to a halt.

Kiviharju was immediately called in to the office manager’s room amd after a serious discussion they came to the conclusion that there was no cause for such a letter. The matter was eventually forgotten.

When approximately three weeks had passed, office manager Riipinen received an official and valuable looking letter with his morning mail. Riipinen’s name was stamped on the envelope and the name of a certain Finnish registered party was marked as the sender. The office manager opened the letter and saw immediately that the letter was written in its entirety with stamps of separate letters. The letter read: “Because I have discovered the bank’s secrets through mrs Kiviharju, I intend to report you unless you pay 3000 marks to our party. We will give the press information of your clients unless you agree to our demands”.

And so Kiviharju ended up explaining herself in the manager’s office yet again. After the workday they held a meeting at the bank’s office regarding the letter and potential measures that could be taken. The matter was reported to the police.

Time passed and Tiina was distressed by the thought of a person who wanted to sully her reputation. She considered her options and filed reports, but investigations yielded no results. Summer of 1978 began and Tiina gave birth to her firstborn. The letters were forgotten during her maternity leave, and family bliss showed all its good sides to Tiina and her whole family.

In July of the same year, once Tiina was home from the maternity ward, a letter arrived to her home appearing to be sent by Mauri Kuhala, a member of the parliament. Kuhala represented the same party that had sent the blackmail letter to office manager Riipinen. Tiina’s heart leapt. She opened the envelope carefully and found her fears confirmed. The letter demanded “the Kiviharju whore” to pay the party 5000 marks or Tiina’s throat would be slit. The letter also stated that Tiina was “pure shit” and that the feces smeared on the letter was indeed much purer than Tiina had ever been.

Tiina was afraid. She couldn’t sleep all night and the police could give no other aid than “we’ll do our best”.

The next day Tiina got another letter. This time the sender was marked as Kerstin Granlund from Vaasa. Tiina didn’t know such a person and could anticipate the contents of the letter. Still she opened it and read: “Your time is almost up. Pray the Lord. Dying young is to be your part. God’s knives are sharp. You will soon have your last meal. You will die ugly”.

Likely as a consequence of giving birth, Tiina was more sensitive than usual. The threats deeply upset her. Tiina felt that the threats were also aimed at her baby, who was only about a week old. Locks were added until there were three on the front door.

Tiina’s husband’s work shifts changed into evening shifts. After dark Tiina sat with the baby in her arms waiting for the threats to come true. The torment grew in Tiina’s mind and eventually the situation got so bad that she no longer dared to spend nights alone and had to go with her husband on his nightly calls. Finally the Kiviharjus decided to change apartments and eventually the thing began to fade from memory. Not entirely, however.

Approximately five years had passed since the letters when Tiina received mail containing materials for attending a marketing conference. Around the same time several items were ordered for Tiina from various stores. The orders were written and from them could be concluded that the writer hadn’t forgotten Tiina. The fear returned; how long would this continue before…

The forger of stamps – deceased

Riitta and Rauno Stenström were an ordinary middle-aged family from eastern Helsinki. Both had jobs and they lived comfortably in their cosy two-room apartment. In 1978 they received an announcement, according to which Rauno had ordered some items by mail. Rauno wondered about this and asked Riitta if she had possibly ordered something. They came to the conclusion that it must have been a mistake. Rauno called the post office and informed them that he had not made the order and that it could be returned.

In the following days similar activity continued; they received more announcements and both Riitta and Rauno cancelled orders as often as they remembered. They naturally forgot to cancel some and received reminders and collection letters about them.

The doorbell rang at the Stenströms. Riitta opened the door and two men carried in a washing machine, asking where it should be placed. After what felt like an endless explanation the men believed her and took the machine away with them.

Now they also began receiving letters that insulted Rauno in strong terms. The letters also contained threats of getting shot at their door, gasoline being poured in the mail slot and being lit and getting tortured by nailing one’s tongue to the table, etc. The letters were often sent in the name of some celebrity. The Stenströms even delivered some letters to the police, who “helped” by telling them that this had happened to several people lately.

A letter arrived to the police station. It contained forged stamps similar to those used to send the so-called defamation letters. The letter also contained a couple of pencil sketches of a man from whom the writer had allegedly bought the forged stamps, and the address where he supposedly lived down to the corridor and floor number. It was the Stenströms’ apartment and the sketch portrayed Rauno. Therefore the writer knew the Stenströms.

Summer of 1981. Riitta Stenström received a phone call. The tearful voice of someone Riitta knew gave their condolences. Riitta was so confused that at first she couldn’t explain that Rauno was still alive. After hearing this it was the caller’s turn to be amazed. They also received flowers with condolences from their relatives. Riitta took a closer look at the newspaper and saw that according to the paper, Rauno Stenström was dead. It was very challenging to get Rauno back to the land of the living. They were disgusted.

Riitta picked up the phone: “I would like to give my condolences to Rauno Stenström’s widow. We have some very affordable tombstones…” It was very hard to get these callers to believe that they had no use for their services at this time. The cruelest part of these obituaries was their effect on other people. The police inspected and mapped out the situation. Clues were collected, but no facts.

Gasoline thief, adulterer

Alpo Kankare drove a bus in Northern Finland. Alpo was a family man whose life was no different from that of any average citizen. That, however, was about to change. At the end of the 1970s Alpo received a letter containing photocopied ten mark bills. According to the letter, Alpo had ordered them to use them on fuel dispensers. The letter mentioned that Alpo was stealing gas from the bus company by taking some from the tanks of the cars, little by little, to make it seem like they had a higher mileage. Alpo pondered. This had happened nearby recently. That letter was sent by Hojo-Hojo-Pena. Alpo ignored the letter, it was simply the work of some nutcase.

Some time passed and Alpo got called into questioning at the police station. He was confused. At the station Alpo discovered that he was suspected of sending an obscene letter to an editor-in-chief from Tampere. The letter had called the editor-in-chief “a parasite and a crab louse in the crotch of Maiden of Finland”. The letter also threatened to slit the editor-in-chief’s throat. The letter had been covered with feces, because, according to the letter, giving better food to a louse would be a waste. It was sent in the name of Alpo Kankare, with his correct phone number and address. It was immediately made clear that Alpo had nothing to do with the letter. What kind of rumours would start to spread, Alpo wondered.

Alpo came home from work and his wife seemed oddly tense. Alpo checked the mail and could guess the reason. With the mail had arrived an open card with the text: “Dear Alpo. I have a surprise for you. I’m pregnant. So it would be good if you got in touch immediately, my love. Last time you said something about posting banns, but it was left unclear to me. This was a surprise for me as well and so I await your reply. Your beloved Kirsti”. Explanations…

This was only the beginning. Alpo caught wind that various complaints about him had been made to the bus company’s supervisor in Helsinki. Alpo had refused to pick someone up from the bus stop and had sometimes driven past stops on purpose, etc. All the letters were clean and seemed genuine; they were signed by people living in the northern hinterlands who were not easily reached by phone. Alpo’s new job became rectifying the management’s conceptions of him.

After a while, a letter arrived to the home of the Kankares, addressed to Mrs Kankare, in which Riitta Sivonen wrote that she had received a peculiar letter from Alpo. In it, Alpo suggested sexual intercourse for a monetary compensation. Riitta wondered in her letter if Alpo could not satisfy his animalistic instincts with his wife since he was thusly harassing other people. Perhaps there really was something to it, Alpo’s wife pondered.

More was to come. The avenger had written a letter in Alpo’s name in which Alpo asks the National Board of Health for a castration due to the fact that when driving a bus and seeing a beautiful woman, Alpo gets a strong erection and ejaculates, leading to embarrassing situations with wet trousers. Alpo asks the board to send their response to the company’s garage’s address. What’s more, the avenger has replied to the castration request in the name of a doctor working for the National Board of Health and manufactured the board’s stamps etc. in the reply. Included was “Alpo’s” original request letter, and these were then sent to the garage.

The avenger ordered Alpo items by mail. He was sent, for example, penis enhancing equipment, ring seals, insoles and all sorts of other things.

Lovely nights – forgotten pants

Ritva Suomaa, a member of parliament, is a well-known woman. Ritva also has a job elsewhere and therefore she is not just an MP. Ritva had received numerous letters in which she had been called every offensive name in the Finnish language. Ritva is a strong woman and didn’t care much about the letters although they caused some bother, as did the orders that kept coming for years and years. Sometimes people she knew would call Ritva and she’d find out that more similar letters had been sent in her name to these people.

Ritva arrived to her workplace and discovered that she had been sent a package, which had had to be opened at the office since only the company’s name and address were written on it. The package contained a pair of women’s panties and a letter to Ritva. The letter communicated that Pasi Kuitunen, a known TV personality, was sending Ritva her underwear that she had forgotten at Kuitunen’s place after a lovely night.

Risto Sahra, the leader of a certain union, had over the years gotten used to the fact that someone was ordering things in his name. He had also received some foul letters smeared with feces to his home and place of work. Upon bringing the mail to their boss, there was something peculiar in the behaviour of the secretary. The secretary uneasily announced the arrival of a package, which was at the bottom of the pile. Sahra looked at the package and found it opened, as it was only labelled with the name and address of the union. The contents were something else. The package contained a pair of men’s feces stained underwear and a letter to Risto Sahra. The sender was Ritva Suomaa, a member of parliament, who in the letter insinuated that Risto had left his underwear at Ritva’s house last time and apologised for the pants getting stained in the throes of passion. Outrage and disgust overtook him. The letter was written in the same hand as the previous ones.

Pekka Pelkonen from Kontiolahti received his first letter in late 1980. The letter was sent from Helsinki. Known to be a calm man, Pelkonen was not upset by the first letters. But when various magazines and mail order items began arriving almost daily, Pelkonen went to the police. Pelkonen worked as the foreman at a large company and he had at best a couple hundred subordinates. Pelkonen suspected one of them to be the writer, as he had been forced to punish some with dismissals. Pelkonen could not name other enemies.

Newspapers, magazines, comics

Between the years 1980-1984 foreman Pelkonen received nearly 40 different deliveries in addition to various newspapers, magazines and comic books. In addition, obscene letters had been sent to other people in Pelkonen’s name.

Sometimes newspaper ads claimed Pelkonen was selling a villa property by Saimaa, sometimes a log cabin by Koitere. There were dozens of calls from interested buyers and even an offer from abroad.

Still worse was yet to come, however. An obituary of Pekka Pelkonen was posted in the local newspaper. The elegy read: “his burden has been lifted and he has found eternal peace”. This obituary of course referred to foreman Pekka Pelkonen from Kontionlahti. However it contained one noteworthy detail: According to the obituary, Pelkonen was born in 1950, when in fact he was born much earlier. Condolences were once again sent to Pelkonen’s “widow”.

Gay, AIDS-patient

For some reason that at the early stages of the investigation could not be explained, the avenger sent a lot of letters to the small village of Tohmajärvi. There are a dozen known recipients, two of whom, teacher Matti Manninen and security guard Kari Kelo faced the worst of the harassment. Teacher Manninen had worked in the municipality for over 25 years. He, too, is a family man and known in the area as a sympathetic and conscientious person. Matti was modest, he never made a big deal of himself.

Upon first opening the libelous letter in 1980, Manninen could not anticipate all that he would come to experience. As in most other cases, a few initial letters were followed by an onslaught of mail deliveries. When the deliveries didn’t appear to be ceasing, he asked the post office to automatically return all deliveries to the stores that sent them. The letters of complaint proved to be the most troublesome for Manninen.

In late 1983 the avenger had sent a letter to the National Board of Health in Manninen’s name. In it, Manninen casually mentions that he is a teacher in Tohmajärvi. He also tells that he has AIDS and that he has had homosexual relations with a male student of his. In the letter Manninen asks what actions he ought to take.

Manninen himself never received a reply, but the board, sensing that something was unclear about the whole thing, sent the letter to the bailiff of Tohjmajärvi.

Things didn’t end so well with a letter that was sent in the name of another Tohmajärvi teacher to the board of education. It told of teacher Manninen’s homosexual relations with his male students. It also mentioned that Manninen had AIDS. The board sent a letter containing this information to the department of education of the provincial government of North Karelia and asked for an investigation to the matter. The department did as requested, and in turn asked Manninen himself to give a written explanation. To be safe, Manninen asked for a statement from a local police officer. The rumour mill was churning once again.

The avenger sent many letters to different public utilities in the name of the National Board of Health in early 1984. The letters mentioned Manninen’s homosexual relations and informed that he had AIDS. The letters asked for information and observations of his comings and goings. The letters were equipped with the signature stamps of the board and a doctor who used to work there. The rumours escalated.

The avenger also sent a letter in teacher Manninen’s name to a sexual health clinic in Helsinki. The letter requested an appointment to get tested for AIDS. A letter arrived in response informing Manninen of the appointment.

Feces to the general director

Security guard Kari Kelo faced similar treatment. Kelo, just like Manninen, received letters and mail deliveries, for-sale ads of various items and of course an obituary. The nastiest situation Kelo ended up in when a feces stained letter was sent in his name to the general director of the company in Helsinki. No more than two hours after the general director opened the letter in Helsinki, Kelo was in his boss’s office in Tohmajärvi giving a handwriting sample. And there was talk…

The avenger

The avenger and his targets were being mapped from the beginning. It was established that most of the targets had been public figures at some stage of their lives. There were exceptions, however, and based on tips from those cases some strong leads could be gathered. For example, it was established that the avenger could draw and etch.

The contents of the letters always referred to political affiliations and that aspect was examined. It could only be stated that the avenger’s range varied from one extreme to another, however with an emphasis on the right wing.

The harassment focused on an area covering, among others, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. The entire Finland got their share of the letters, however, all the way up to Inari. During the investigation, another point of focus was located in the North Karelia province. At the centre of this point was the small municipality of Tohmajärvi. This was chosen as the starting point for the investigation, as it was suspected that the avenger had at some point lived in the area and had possibly moved away. Other more promising leads could not be forgotten, however.

Letters delivered around 1978 made many references to an already disbanded extreme right wing political movement, which had been found guilty of burning down a left wing printing house. So they searched for a person fitting the avenger’s framework among the members of the disbanded movement. House searches were conducted as well as forensic investigation, but they seemed to yield no results.

They also endeavoured to find an explanation for the fact that several letters had been sent in envelopes of company called Kustannus Oy. Where had the avenger gotten these envelopes? Did he perhaps work at the company? It turned out that Kustannus Oy had printed 6000 such envelopes at Painopaikka Oy in 1977. From there the envelopes had been sent to the mail service Postitusosakeyhtiö Saari, who had, according to the contract, mailed 5877 of these envelopes to the clients of Kustannus Oy. Where were the remaining 123 envelopes? The employee directories of Postitusosakeyhtiö Saari from nearly a decade were reviewed and the backgrounds and handwritings of suspicious individuals were inspected. It was futile. The envelopes could also be from Painopaikka Oy, but the company had gone bankrupt and the employee directories were no longer available.

We recall the letter sent to the police in which the avenger had included a drawing of Rauno and informed that he had bought fraudulent stamps from the man in the picture. Rauno had never appeared in the public eye so how did the avenger know him? Rauno himself suggested some options but upon investigation they yielded no results. It was established, however, that Rauno had begun receiving letters after changing jobs in the summer of 1978. Employee directories containing hundreds of names were procured from Rauno’s old and new workplaces. Suspicious persons found on these lists were investigated, but once again to no avail.

The investigators tried to fit hundreds upon hundreds of people into the “framework of the avenger”, but they always came away empty-handed, as they say. When taking some things to the cellar storage, a musician had heard hurried footsteps from the stairway and, upon going to see who it was, had found a package left by the avenger. Based on the sound of the footsteps as well as other factors, it could be deduced with some certainty that the avenger was a man. Some progress was made.

Tohmajärvi in focus

Tohmajärvi was once again put under the microscope, and one by one they began going through names of men who had gone to school in the area and were born between 1948 and 1952. The year of birth was narrowed down to this period due to the the fact that upon inspecting the local recipients of the letters it was noted that eight of them were born in 1950. Furthermore, they all had been in the same class in primary school in 1964. They all had at some point been taught by Matti Manninen and one of the students was Pekka Pelkonen.

Student registries were found in the municipal archive and each person was interviewed in their turn. No one could name certain suspects. There appeared to have been no general victim of mockery or such in the school. Manninen also didn’t recall having to discipline any one student in particular. Over twenty years had passed and no one could recall specific events any longer. The question arose whether the avenger could’ve been a student’s brother, current spouse or something similar.

The case of Pekka Pelkonen was addressed. There was foreman Pekka Pelkonen, who had received letters, and chauffeur Pekka Pelkonen, who was in the category of people born in 1950. The avenger had apparently targeted the wrong man. However, the real Pekka Pelkonen could not name anyone likely to be the perpetrator either.

The selection of men born between 1948 and 1952 was narrowed down to those who had moved to the metropolitan area. Approximately 50 names remained and hopes were high. An arduous phase followed. There was still no certainty that the avenger was among this group of 50 people, so other leads were continuously being followed on the side. Several binders of material were gathered and based on the facts discovered the group had been narrowed down to approximately 20 people. Among the material there was a handwriting sample from one Asser Niinistö, who had moved away from Tohmajärvi already in 1965, but there seemed to be no similarities.

Asser

The dead end seemed to open up when an official of the North Karelian garrison contacted the investigators. He had received libelous letters and mail deliveries. The officer was from Tohmajärvi and he was presented with the narrowed down list of names. The man immediately picked out Asser Niinistö, who had been his neighbour back in the day. According to the man, Asser had been a very quiet young man and enthusiastic about building “infernal machines” and other such devices. The man also told that Asser had served his military service in the North Karelian garrison as late as 1975 due to postponements.

Asser Niinistö was taken under close inspection. No fact based on which he could be suspected more than anyone else seemed to surface. Besides, there were many better leads to examine. What’s more, Asser was established to be a man with a job and a family and therefore wasn’t likely to have the time to do all the things that had come to light.

The very next day Asser’s former neighbour from the garrison called the investigators and told them that the garrison’s matron had received a similar letter as the one he had received. Upon inspection the letters were found to contain things that no outsider could know about. It was discovered that Asser Niinistö had worked in the garrison’s kitchen. Having drawn their conclusions, they decided to conduct a house search at Asser’s home and workplace the next day.

Fainted

On a winter morning in 1984 the police arrived at Asser’s workplace and the foreman was asked to fetch Asser. Asser was asked to open his desk drawers and his locker.

Having done this, Asser fainted.

In the locker there were several pre-filled mail order coupons and letters. The avenger’s journey had come to an end. Asser was searched and a loaded, self-made .22 caliber revolver was found in his possession.

Asser was arrested and in the interrogation he confessed everything. He said that from the year 1974 onwards he had sent hundreds of libelous letters mainly to people in leadership positions. He also said that he had made at least 1500 orders of items. In addition there were the packages, harassing phone calls and newspaper ads.

A capable man

Asser was a capable man. Three more handguns were found at his house, two of which were self-made. According to a statement from the laboratory, they could all be labelled as firearms. In addition, there were paintings at Asser’s house that were painted by him. Asser had also worked as a touring musician, but had stopped touring for his family’s sake. During the house search they found equipment used to make the counterfeit meter stamps, and offset printing plates with pictures of 100 mark bills. The police had already previously procured a brass sheet with a lion themed stamp carved on it, with which Asser had manufactured some stamps.

A detailed index

So how did Asser remember the hundreds of people that he had sent letters and items to? To this there are to answers: Firstly, Asser had a detailed index of approximately 1000 names with addresses. The index was divided in sections such as National Coalition Party members, Centre Party members, the military and the police together, Christians and miscellaneous. Secondly, Asser had a very good memory and upon hearing a name he could recall off the top of his head why he had chosen that particular person as a target.

There were some people who were targeted for personal reasons. They had at some point in their lives said or done something bad or hurtful to Asser. Among these people were Tiina and Rauno, for example. However, these people didn’t make up even one percent of the targets.

Why?

Why did Asser do this, then?

Excerpts from Asser’s interrogation transcript: “… I was a small child and perhaps had a tendency for being nervous … Also there was a teacher with a very authoritarian and militant approach to teaching … (Matti Manninen) … I developed a hatred towards authoritarian and aggressive people … Then there were some housing concerns due to illegal dismissals when I wouldn’t agree to illegal rent increases … The pressure was at its peak and the knowledge that I would have to join the army triggered it all. I remembered my pistol and decided to go outside to shoot at everyone and everything. I abandoned that thought, however, because I couldn’t have hurt another person physically. Since my own troubles were psychological, I decided to avenge the wrongs I had experienced psychologically …

Screenshot_20181204-162322_YouTube

(Pens used in creating the letters. Police photo.)

Asser’s wife never knew or suspected what his husband was up to late in the evenings. Asser also had other good opportunities to do his avenging work, as his wife did shift work. Excerpts from the wife’s interrogation: “… My husband is very quiet. Sometimes it’s like he’s in a different world. He also has a very strict stance on what is right and what is wrong”.

Asser also had detailed notes of all the letters and his other doings. There were some two dozen notebooks and the parts about the avenger’s actions Asser had written down in a cipher he had invented. The notebooks, as well as the other avenger material, were in a locked cupboard to which others had no access and no keys. The locks Asser naturally made himself.

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(Some of Asser’s “tools” he used to create counterfeit papers and documents. Police photo.)

Asser was arrested for his deeds and he is accused of frauds, counterfeiting a private document, illegal possession of a firearm, making and using counterfeit stamps, illegal threats, defamation, libel via printed documents, attempts of fraud, slander, etc. Now Asser is in prison, waiting for the court’s ruling on the matter. [Article written in 1985; see post scriptum for an update. -admin]

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(Pistol found among Asser’s possessions. Police photo.)

Asser is a good worker and possesses a very demanding set of skills. He owns an apartment, has a wife and a kid, a job.

But why all this?


Post Scriptum, 2018, written by Teemu from Mysteries, Crimes, Curiosities

As far as I know, this is the only photo of Asser publicly available. I took this photo from an old issue of Alibi, a Finnish true crime magazine:

“Asser” was sentenced to prison time, but only did a short portion of it, as he was deemed by the court to have been in a mentally unstable state during the crimes.

After his prison sentence, “Asser” returned to his old job. As far as I was able to determine through my research, he never committed any more crimes.

Interview with horror author Marko Hautala.

Marko Hautala is one of Finland’s best contemporary writers. His books employ the methods of horror and thriller literature to look into the minds and pasts of their characters – with terrifying results.

Order his books here.

Below is my interview with Mr. Hautala.


Marko Hautala

(photo Veikko Somerpuro)

1) Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m a Finnish writer who’s mainly written psychological horror, but also essays and even poetry. My writing has been translated into eight languages.

2) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I first started to write a novel when I was seven years old but didn’t finish one until I was 27. I suppose that means that the plan has been there all along! It just took time and several short stories to get there.

3) Your works are set in the city of Vaasa, which is refreshing, as most Finnish novels are set in Helsinki. Does Vaasa inspire your writing? How would you describe the city to someone who has never been there?

Vaasa is a small city on the West Coast of Finland, close to Sweden. It’s very middle class but also culturally diverse due to the big international companies in the region. That may sound a bit boring as a setting for horror stories but actually it’s not. Vaasa has a long history and all the mystery and tragedy that goes with it if you know how to look beyond the polite façade.

vaasa

(Vaasa)

4) One thing I love about your books is how you play with the feeling of uncertainty, and use it to build horror into your characters and, subsequently, the reader’s heart. The characters are often going through a period of transition of some sort, and the future is uncertain. Is uncertainty, the fear of what comes next, the basis of horror, in your opinion?

I’m really happy you point that out! Horror as a genre is often seen in too simplistic terms. For me it’s a form of fiction that offers the most suitable tools for tackling with those aspects of life that are strange and almost unbearable. For me, both as a writer and reader, the best horror stories go straight to that basic uncertainty that we as vulnerable creatures with limited understanding of reality have. It doesn’t really matter to me whether the story deals with that aspect of life through the supernatural or in purely realistic terms, but my own stories often fall somewhere in between. Whatever you believe in, you have to admit that reality is so strange and endlessly complex that our view of it is helplessly limited. A good horror story makes you acknowledge and face that fact.

5) Is there a specific method you employ to build suspense, or do you just aim to tell a scary story and things come naturally from there on?

The funny thing is that my intention is not to scare people, really. At least I don’t usually think about it that way most of the time. My main motivation is to create a strong atmosphere that would be intriguing, mysterious and yet strangely familiar. To me atmosphere is at least half the story and I do pay a lot of attention to it. Having said that, in every novel there is at least one scene that I realize might scare the reader. Then I sometimes work it up a little bit just for the joy of making someone I don’t know feel uneasy while reading a book.

6) Do you plan the entire arc of the story before hitting the computer, or do you go one section at a time, making it up as you go along?

Every novel is slightly different, but I often do make plans and drafts and synopses at some point. Usually they don’t have much to do with the final story, but they serve as temporary signposts I think. Mostly I just follow my instincts because they tend to take me to places I didn’t even know exist. If and when I get lost in my own imagination or run out of inspiration, I go back to story arcs and stuff like that just to find my way again. Often when I run out of steam, I also start drawing pictures as it seems to reactivate the verbal side of things really well.

7) How “connected” are your books in your mind? Or are they “islands” onto themselves?

Yes and no. I don’t enjoy writing series but on the other hand I sometimes feel that everything I’ve ever written is just one long story about things I try to get a grasp on or come to terms with.

8) The book Black Tongue (Finnish Kuokkamummo) employs faux folklore beautifully to create a kind of sinister past to a place. How much do folkloric tales inspire you? Do you read a lot of them?

Actually the urban legend in that novel is an authentic one! It’s from my childhood neighborhood and it really scared me when I was a kid. The legend basically included an old woman who haunted the surrounding woods and killed children. Like all urban legends, it probably had a basis in a real event (in this case in a tragic incident of a mother killing her own children decades before) but it had changed over time into this ubiquitous, almost demon-like character.

I recently also wrote a Finnish folklore-based short story that was published in several languages. The story is called Sauna Requiem and you can read or listen to it on Storytel (I don’t know if that’s available in all parts of the world though).

My latest novel Leväluhta (The Red Marsh) is also based on a real place, an ancient water burial site close to my home town. The place and all the stories connected to it have fascinated me for over a decade but it took time to find a way to write fiction about it. The funny thing is that this became possible only when I started to feel that two other seemingly unrelated elements had something to do with the place, namely a life-form known as mycetozoa (do look it up!) and early 1990’s black metal. There’s no logical connection, of course, but I felt that on some deeper level these things were connected.

Overall, I think stories and legends are important if they survive long periods of time. Although they might be factually wrong, there’s some other kind of truth in them if they survive.

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9) How and where do you write? At home, at a cafe? Can you write anywhere anytime, or do you need a certain atmosphere?

Whenever possible, I write at our summerhouse (even in the winter). In the past I used to also write in cafes and bars and places like that but nowadays I feel that other people are an obstacle to intensive writing. I’m most productive when I haven’t heard a human voice for a couple of days. Lack of speech does something to your imagination. It makes you turn inward and your dreams become crazily vivid.

10)  Have you personally ever experienced anything paranormal?

I’ve seen a ghost but I don’t think I believe in them. It was a strange experience though. When I was younger I used to work as a nurse in a mental hospital so I know that the mind can do all kinds of tricks, but that experience still sometimes bothers me. We lived in an old wooden house back then so the setting was right I guess. I woke up to noises from the front door and rose from the bed to look at what was going on. Then I saw an old woman walking towards me. I tried to wake up my wife but she only has a vague recollection of that. It might have been something like sleep paralysis without the paralysis part, but the experience was quite unusual. I wish my wife would have woken up so there’d be confirmation that it was just a hallucination!

11)  What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a novel, an audiobook, game script and a book of essays. At least those. Then there are several small ideas that I’m toying with.

12)  Where can people write to request that more of your books be translated into English?

I really don’t know! My agent Ahlback Agency takes care of my foreign rights so I don’t really get involved in that side of things at all. I’m really, really happy to get my stories translated though. [Write to elina@ahlbackagency.com -admin]

13)  Where can people keep up with you and your work?

I write a blog at markohautala.fi but it’s only in Finnish, unfortunately!

And, finally, my standard questions:

14)  Your top 3 movies and why?

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (saw it as a kid, didn’t have the slightest understanding of what’s going on but was completely mesmerised. I still watch it at least once a year)

2. Psycho (took horror film to a completely new level)

3. Rosemary’s Baby (a prime example of a great horror story: creepy, atmospheric and a great finale which is terrifying and blackly humorous at the same time)

15)  Your top 3 albums and why?

1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads (this album marks the transition from the young, angry Nick Cave to the calmer one we have today. On Murder ballads you can hear both)

2. Ghost: Meliora (the best pop metal album ever. I almost feel bad for the band because they will probably never be able to top this)

3. Lustmord: Songs of Gods and Demons (a classic dark ambient album to which I have written several novels in the past)

16)  Your top 3 books and why?

This is even more difficult than the ones above! I’ll approach this from the genre angle:

1. Everything by E.A. Poe and H.P. Lovecraft and the best novels of Stephen King (sorry but I have to make the first slot like this, otherwise this is impossible!)

2. Clive Barker: The Books of Blood 1-3

3. Sara Gran: Come Closer

17)  Do you have a favorite place to read?

Anywhere by the sea in the summer, otherwise in my study or on a train. I also try spend two hours every day walking and listening to audiobooks.

The Disappearance of Piia Ristikankare, Finland, 1988

1988. Rick Astley is rick rolling the world, and Bruce Willis is fighting bad guy in the Nakatomi building. The 1980s are coming close to their end, and the world has yet to see the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise and fall of Nirvana, and other curious incidents of the early 90s.

Far away from the red carpets of Hollywood and the secret dealing of the Kremlin, in a small town, a young girl disappears, leaving behind an enduring mystery that lives on after the last time she herself is ever seen.


piia2

Piikkiö is the kind of town you pass by on your way somewhere else, most likely Turku, a bigger city about 20 kilometers away.

Home to about 7000 residents, walking down the streets there you can almost feel the gazes on your back as locals give you an extended glimpse when you pass them by, trying to guess who you are and which house you’re visiting. ”Is he the son of [enter name here], visiting from Helsinki? No, maybe it’s [insert name here] all grown up, visiting from Turku!” Having grown up in a small town myself, I understand this dynamic.

Near the town’s health center is a short street and on that street stands a grey house that gives the impression that it’s standing still in time. The exterior looks like it is not actively cared for, and the grass in the yard is overgrown. This is the home of a single dweller, an old man named Heikki Ristikankare, father of a young girl named Piia who went missing in 1988, leaving behind a creepy mystery that lingers in the public consciousness to this day.

The Ristikankare family had a tumultuous history. They were a Jehovah’s Witness family whose mother drank. A lot. So much, in fact, that during her lowest points she used the family’s savings to pay for booze for her drinking buddies. She was a loud drinker who would go off on her family, screaming at her husband and children. Finally, husband and father Heikki had enough, took his children, and separated them from their unstable mother.

He got custody, and became the sole provider for the kids.

In 1988 Piia was 14 years old, and the oldest of the children. Blonde-haired and blue-eyed, her school photograph shows her with a pretty, toothy smile and a knowing look in her eyes, as though she’s in on something funny you haven’t noticed yet. Nothing in her appearance is particularly exceptional; outwardly, she blends into the mass of late-80s working class teenagers.

ristikankare_piia

Her diary bespeaks a reasonably normal youth, with its crushes and early attempts at flirting with the opposite sex. From her journal:

May 3rd 1988. Today we waved at two guys who passed us by in their car. They stopped, and we got in.

Two days later she writes about another encounter with the same guys:

May 5th 1988. Today after the disco we waved at them again. I got in [the guy’s] car. He was alone at the time. We went to the forest for a while.

Besides the early signs of a burgeoning love life, the writings hint at an inherent trust in people, even males: Piia gets in the car despite probably a lifetime of warnings from grown-ups in her religious community – or perhaps because of them, in teenage defiance of the paranoia of all parents towards prospective male pursuers? She also hints at being at a disco that night, and talks of accompanying her pursuer to the woods, perhaps for a walk and some alone time.

Piia’s life had its shadows, too. Friends and student peers report that Piia was bullied at school, sometimes harshly. The daughter of a Jehovah’s Witness family can’t escape her background in a small town, and will occasionally stick out from the bunch. The exact theology of this religion is generally somewhat mysterious to Finns, and many of them have an image of the religion’s followers as irritating door-knockers and doorbell-ringers who want to sit you down in your kitchen and tell you about The True Way to Salvation.

Regardless of Piia’s joyful personality, the reputation of her religion may have preceded her, and been a factor in the bullying. And regardless of whether she emphasized this aspect of her identity outwardly or not, for Piia, being a Witness was apparently not a matter of passing significance: she took part in religious services and sang religious songs at home, her father accompanying her with a harmonica.

The bullying, however, apparently seized after Piia started studying at the Vocational Institute in Turku. Piia got new friends there, and people who knew her report this transition as something of a fresh start for the young woman.

At home, however, Piia’s role as something of a surrogate mother (or at least female caregiver) for her younger siblings most likely grew after her parents’ divorce. This may have added to the young woman’s worries and stress, and ultimately caused some kind of a psychological strain to break the night of her disappearance when she stormed out of her home and into infamy.


7th October 1988

The night of her disappearance was seemingly not too different from any Friday night in a small Finnish town. The only noticeable difference was that that night there were more youngsters out on the town than usual, possibly due to a disco being held at a local youth center. The weather for the weekend was rainy and gray.

Piia had originally made plans to spend the weekend with a friend in the town of Paimio, another small town roughly 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Piikkiö. But father Heikki, a bricklayer, had a work assignment for Saturday, so he had asked Piia to stay home and look after her younger siblings. The responsible Piia had agreed.

But as it turns out, the person Heikki would be working for had unexpectedly told him it would be possible for him to take the youngest child of the family with him to work, which again made it possible for Piia to go to Paimio. Ultimately, however, Piia decided to stay home.

On the evening of that Friday, 7th October, the Ristikankare family did what essentially every Finnish family does to mark the end of the week: heat up the sauna. This is the quintessential Finnish way to rinse the old work week off the skin and relax after a week on the job. There’s a touch of ”zen” to the practice, at least as much as a nation as practical and formal as Finns dare to engage in.

While father Heikki was in the sauna with a friend, Piia and her three siblings were in the living room watching television. At some point in the evening, Piia and her younger brother got into an argument over the ownership of the remote control, and as a result, Piia stormed out of the door and into the Friday night.

This is time she has been seen for certain.

She left with her regular clothes on, and had about 20 marks of money and a credit card.

When father Heikki got out of the sauna, the younger kids explained what had happened. At this point there wasn’t yet a reason to worry: maybe Piia had simply gone out to walk around the block and cool her head a bit. This wasn’t the first-ever argument between two siblings in the history of the world, after all.

Piia had occasionally spent weekends at relatives’ and friends’ houses, so Heikki was not yet terrified at Piia’s absence; his initial suspicion was that she had headed to some friend’s house once again, and would be present at that Sunday’s religious service.

Sunday came. The service came. Piia didn’t.

Heikki called the police to officially place a missing person report. The report is dated 08.45 the next Monday morning, October 10th. The police began their routine procedures: search parties, information gathering, interrogation of potential suspects.

Nothing. Something was seriously wrong.

Despite endless searches, sleepless nights, and silent sorrow and longing for a lost friend and family member, Piia remains missing. Millions of cars have passed through the highway that passes her hometown since then. None of them have brought her back.

In 2007 the lead detective in the case was interviewed for a Finnish television show entitled Kadonneet (”The Missing”). Of all the various details in the disappearance, one sticks out like a sore thumb.

As mentioned earlier, there were a lot of youngsters out on the town that night, probably gathered around the youth center and the disco. And even though Piikkiö is a small town, it isn’t a town-sized graveyard – there are people on the move on a Friday night, going out, walking their dogs, heading to the store for groceries to cook something special on the eve of the weekend, et cetera. And even if you discount the people outside, that still leaves many a family or couple sitting at their kitchens, looking out into the street as they sip their evening teas or eat their meals.

And yet, not a single verifiable sighting of Piia was made after she left home that night. Not one. It’s as though she walked into a vortex and disappeared into thin air.


The 1980s turned into the 1990s, and the 90s turned into a new millennium. The silence around the Piia Ristikankare case was like a still pond of black water, motionless, denying even the slightest glimpse at its murky bottom.

Until one day in 2002 someone took a big rock and broke the water’s surface, sending new ripples across the dead calm surface.


The Letter

It had been mailed from Sweden, and bore the earmarks of having been written by someone under duress.

The writer didn’t seem to be accustomed to letter-writing; it seemed like a simple communique meant to convey something dramatic the author had held inside for years.

kirje_piia

(the actual letter)

It was first received by the producers of a Finnish television show titled Poliisi-TV (”Police TV”), a show that features news on police investigations into famous crimes, as well as reports on the latest crimes, with requests to viewers to help identify their perpetrators. Think of it as Finland’s “Unsolved Mysteries”.

After opening the letter, the producers of the show had determined that the letter needs to be forwarded to the police, so they sent it to Kaarina police department, Kaarina being the town where the investigation into Piia Ristikankare’s disappearance had initially began. The Kaarina police forwarded it to Keskusrikospoliisi (”Central Bureau of Investigations”; basically Finland’s equivalent to the American FBI), where the Ristikankare investigation had been delegated after local police departments failed
to solve the mystery.

The author of the letter claimed to remember something shattering from the night of the disappearance. According to his letter, he had been on his way to eastern Finland, and had passed Piikkiö on his way. Driving through the highway, he had noticed a young girl fitting Piia’s description entering a car.

And as if that wasn’t eerie enough, there was an additional shocker to the author’s story: he claimed to remember the license plate number of that very car.

The police immediately ran the number through their system, and came up with a name. The person whose name it was lived in the Turku region (close to Piikkiö, in other words), and had a criminal record – for sexual assault.

He was brought to the department and interrogated. He swore he had no connection to Piia’s disappearance, and eventually the police came to believe him. He was released for lack of evidence.

The lead detective believes the letter writer may have tried to take revenge for something by accusing the suspect of this notorious disappearance. Nevertheless, the police believe this letter is still an essential piece of the puzzle, and that the author most likely knows more than he’s telling.


Flash forward

Investigative threads currently employed by the police to solve this disappearance are easy to articulate: none. The police lieautenant currently in charge of the investigation openly admits that in light of the existing evidence (or lack thereof, rather), the case is a total mystery. The only thing that can realistically solve it is a phone call or email from someone who remembers something conclusive from the night of Piia’s vanishing.

The possibility of suicide has been ruled out. Piia’s personal diary reflects an overall sunny disposition and attitude towards life, and hints at an emerging interest in boys – and even courage to engage in some light flirting. It’s also reasonable to assume that, had Piia taken her own life, her remains would most likely have been discovered by now. Local forests were searched thoroughly and local rivers drenched.

An intentional dropping off the map can confidently be ruled out as well. Such a maneuver demands an enormous supply of funds and social contacts across the country (and possibly beyond), neither of which Piia possessed. Finns who disappear intentionally are generally well-to-do individuals who have gotten into some kind of trouble, often financially.

This leaves homicide as the only realistic option. But who, and why?

The most likely scenario for murder in this case goes like this.

After Piia leaves home, she walks to the nearby highway, intending on hitchhiking to Turku and the nightlife of a bigger city, or to Paimio and her original plans for that Friday. The destination, I believe, is not essential – ”away” is the key word.

As she stands by the road with her thumb in the air, someone with a dark intent spots her, a lonely female figure moving under the streetlights in the darkness. He is almost unable to believe his luck; this opportunity is not to be wasted!

He drives his car to the side of the lane and stops. The girl standing outside in the chilly evening air walks to him and bends down to talk through the open car window. She explains that she needs a ride. The man nods his head: ”Get in”.

The car takes off, its wheels crunching on the ground as the driver steers them back into the lane, the car’s rear lights casting a long red glow onto the dark ground.

The glow slowly fades as the car takes off, transporting the unlikely pair into the dark.

piia

(exclusive artwork done for this blog post by artist Ninni Rönkkö)


Epilogue

It’s 2016, and though the case makes the occasional appearance in the papers, there’s nothing to show that the investigation into Piia’s disappearance would have gathered any new wind under its wings in the passing decades. The case is official open, but badly needs a new clue for the police to chew on.

July, 2016. My wife and I walk down a street in Piikkiö Piia may have chosen as her path that night.

My wife notices two raspberries growing in a tiny bush next to the paved road and stops to pick them. There’s a house nearby, and its living room window is open. I can hear the music blaring in the stereo inside.

The song is ”I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2.

Murder on the Upper Deck. An Unsolved Crime.

In 1994, cruise liner M/S Estonia sank, taking hundreds of lives with it to the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

What most people don’t know is that some years before it’s sinking, the same ship (then known as the Viking Sally) was the scene of an unsolved murder.

This article is taken from the book Poliisi kertoo (“Police Stories”). Translated into English by my friend and talented translator Salla Juntunen.

This is the first time this story has been told in English.


A homicide and an attempted homicide on a ship

German students Klaus Herman Schelkle (born January 28, 1967) and Bettina Taxis (born May 10, 1965) met in early winter, 1987. They enjoyed each other’s company and soon began dating and planning their future together.

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(Klaus Schelkle and Bettina Taxis)

The future, however, turned out to be entirely different from what they had pictured. Happiness turned to death and horror and horror into painful memories that no one involved will likely ever forget.

The story has remained unclear so far. The police appeals to the public for help.

The groundwork for the shared life of these two hardworking and in every way exemplary youths seemed to be in order. During the spring and summer they saved money and planned a trip to the Nordic countries. A mutual friend and Klaus’s acquaintance of many years, Thomas Schmid, would also be brought along.

The plan was fulfilled and on July 23, 1987 the trio took off from Stuttgart towards the Nordics with the purpose of travelling all the way to Nord Kap. They travelled via Denmark to Sweden, where they stayed in Stockholm for a few days. According to their original travel plan they were supposed to travel through northern Sweden, but instead they decided to experience a cruise across the Gulf of Bothnia together and travel to their original destination through Finland.

Postcards and phone messages home told that the journey was going well and according to expectations. At 10 pm on  July 27, 1987, the youths boarded Viking Sally cruise ship in the port of Stockholm in order to travel to Turku, where the ship would arrive the next morning at 8 am.

Other passengers

English engineer Patrick Haley (name made up) had experienced more by the age of 26 than most of his peers. His studies had not gone too well, he had gotten personally acquainted with drugs and had broken up with his fianceé. When the young mind flared up, Patrick left London in early spring of 1987, or as he said: “I turned around and found myself working on a kibbutz in Israel.” A Finnish student from Lapland, Maija, had also ended up there. They got acquainted and decided to go see Maija’s beautiful home country. The journey to Finland took a few months. The penniless youths worked in different countries, mostly in orchards and agriculture to earn the money to travel onward.

In the evening of July 25, 1987, Maija and Patrick boarded a ship from Stockholm to Helsinki. In Helsinki, on the morning of July 26 they were surprised: Maija was naturally welcome to her home country, but the shabby, junkie-looking and penniless Patrick was sent back to Stockholm.

However, the attachment between the two was strong and thus on the very same day Maija sent Patrick 4000 marks by express to a Stockholm bank. Patrick did not now want to travel via rude Helsinki, and after mucking about in Stockholm for a day he ended up boarding Viking Sally in the evening in order to travel to Turku and from there to Helsinki, where Maija would meet him.

Tauno, a businessman delivering car parts from Germany to Finland, and his partner Sakari drove their van to the port of Stockholm via Denmark and also travelled to Turku on Viking Sally.

Sami, Pentti and Ville, young men from Kangasala, had spent the day in Stockholm and lost all their money on booze and amusements. With tickets acquired from the Stockholm social welfare office in their pockets, they, too, began their voyage to Turku. Kalle and Ossi from Kotka boarded the ship under nearly identical circumstances.

A few hundred scouts had eagerly awaited all summer for their trip to Finland where they would attend a scout camp organised in Sauvo, approximately 50 kilometers from Turku. Among them were families, retirees, war veterans and different travelling groups. The passengers represented at least nine different nationalities.

A crew of approximately 200 members was ready to serve the passengers.

Meetings on the ship

At 10 pm Finnish time, the eight-storey ship, built in Papenburg in 1980, with a capacity for 2000 passengers and over 400 cars, departed from the port of Stockholm. The announcements were informing passengers about practicalities and the shipping company wished everyone a pleasant journey.

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(the Viking Sally)

Queues formed in the ship’s restaurants and shops. Passengers who had booked cabins took their belongings to them, others tentatively looked for places to sleep in salons and other interiors of the ship. The bars also slowly began filling up.

Everything seemed perfectly normal and ordinary.

Klaus Schelkle, Bettina Taxis and Thomas Schmid also began their journey in a very ordinary manner. They also made their few purchases in the shop, familiarised themselves with the ship and searched for a suitable place to sleep. Klaus and Bettina decided to watch the sun rise during their sea voyage. They decided, therefore, to sleep up on the helicopter platform. Thomas Schmid, perhaps out of discretion, did not stay there and chose instead to sleep indoors, one floor down.

The weather was warm and therefore quite a few passengers gathered around the helicopter platform late in the evening. From there they could enjoy watching the beautiful Stockholm archipelago disappear into the horizon in the setting sun.

The youths from Kangasala, who had on their recent journeys managed to acquire a few bottles of beer, also enjoyed the beginning of their journey on the helicopter platform. They have afterwards recalled two young foreigners with their sleeping bags staying on the same deck behind the plexiglass windshield.

Before going to bed, Klaus and Bettina walked around on the ship. There they met, among others, Tauno, who was very proficient in German. In conversation with Klaus, they discovered their mutual interest in cars; Klaus was studying automotive technology after all. They even planned to drop by the car deck to look at Tauno’s cargo of car parts. The doors to the car deck were locked, so they agreed to go look at the parts in the morning.

At the end of their time together they decided to exchange addresses, since a new pleasant acquaintance had been found on both sides. Afterwards, when talking about Tauno, Bettina has used the phrase “the fun Finn”.

At around 1 am, Klaus and Bettina returned to their sleeping place on the helicopter platform. The darkness of the night and the chilly wind had driven the rest of the people away from the upper deck.

Sami, Pentti and Ville from Kangasala met Kalle and Ossi from Kotka at a restaurant. They were soon joined by Patrick. Patrick had the money sent by Maija and, having found the others nearly penniless, benevolently bought beer and food to others as well. The party behaved in such a “showy” manner that quite a few of those staying up late noticed them. Little by little they all “passed out” or otherwise fell asleep in different parts of the ship. In the morning, Patrick was found on the floor of the salon on the sixth floor.

The crime

As the evening passed into the small hours, the situation on the ship was peaceful. The last bars closed between 3 am and 4 am. Most of the passengers were asleep in their cabins and those who had enjoyed themselves in the restaurants to the last also found their way to their sleeping places. The ship had advanced past Mariehamn, but was still in the Åland archipelago.

The tired crew prepared for a moment’s rest before their morning’s duties. The security officer Raimo Vahlsten also prepared to hand over his duties to the next person on shift.

The wild feeling of freedom and the new, strange surroundings kept some of the scouts in lively spirits and they roamed the ship to the point of causing disturbance. After wandering around aimlessly, three Danish youths ended up on the helicopter platform at 3:45 am.

At first glance there appeared to be no other people on the deck, but then one of the scouts noticed two figures by the air vents. The boys concluded that they were drunk or drugged as they, upon repeated attempts to get up by leaning on the wall, kept feebly falling back down on the deck. After observing the situation for a while, one of the boys went closer to see if he could help. He then saw that it was a young man and a woman. Both their faces were covered in blood. Two boys stayed with the victims as one ran to the help desk to tell someone what they had found.

Thus began one of the biggest investigative operations of the Finnish police.

Immediate measures

The help desk attendant immediately alerted security officer Raimo Vahlsten. He found the victims Klaus Schelkle and Bettina Taxis to be severely injured. Vahlsten suspected a crime because the victims’ heads clearly showed severe trauma from being hit with an object. The victims’ speech could not be made out. With the help of other crew members Vahlsten helped Klaus and Bettina to the cabin of the ship’s nurse.

The nurse immediately saw the severity of the situation and began giving first aid while ordering a rescue helicopter to be called to the ship immediately to transport the victims to Turku University Hospital. Klaus and Bettina arrived to the hospital by helicopter already at 5:48 am.

The doctor found Klaus dead from blows to the head that had pierced the skull. Bettina’s condition was extremely critical due to similar injuries.

The Turku Police Department received a notification from the ship about what had happened at 4:28 am. The police considered the situation to be very serious, and the same helicopter that had transported the injured to the hospital was used to take four detectives of the Turku Police Department to the ship.

The detectives arrived on the ship at 6:30 am.

The scene of the crime turned out to be the upper deck. The victims had been found there next to their sleeping bags in a corner partially covered by a plexiglass wall. The scene had been dark during the night due to the device, which was supposed to light it, having broken earlier.

The detectives immediately secured the crime scene and began passenger interrogations. The forensic investigation was also initiated. Vahlsten, being an experienced security officer, had earlier partially secured the crime scene and he had valuable information he had gathered while they were waiting to relay to the police.

The detectives on the ship were in contact with the police department, where they immediately began summoning additional police forces for when the ship would arrive in Turku.

The ship’s regular arrival time was at 8 am. Now it was only allowed to dock at 8:10 am, when preparations had been made and the police could secure the ship.

Such an arrangement was necessary because the initial investigation on the ship had afforded no clarity on the identity of the perpetrator. The situation was very difficult.

The ship and the passengers under surveillance

The ship’s passengers were informed of the delay in disembarking and its cause. All the passengers were guided off the ship through one exit, all other exits had been closed. Two police boats were patrolling outside the ship to make sure nothing was thrown overboard.

Due to the special circumstances, three video cameras had been acquired, one of which was used to film all passengers, the other used to film young men specifically, and the third to film any even slightly suspicious persons, who were then also interrogated. Initially there was also an attempt to document every passenger’s personal details, but that had to be given up due to the scene having gotten almost unbearably congested. However, only the elderly, children and families with small children, as well as others considered safe to be excluded by common conception were left undocumented.

The passengers who could not immediately prove their identity were guided to separate rooms and their identities were verified after the other passengers had left the ship.

Approximately twenty passengers were brought to the police station for additional investigation for different reasons. Among them was Patrick Haley. He had been found, bloody, in his sleeping place in the morning. In the interrogation Haley explained that his nose had begun to bleed during the night. The blood on his clothes was his own and nothing came up at that juncture that casted doubt on the truth of his claims.

The youths from Kangasala and Kotka also ended up on the police station.

The reader must now be wondering about Thomas Schmid’s involvement in the matter. He, too, was interrogated, but nothing indicated that he had anything to do with what happened and he was allowed to leave after interrogation. Thus, nothing conclusive or pivotal to solving the case came up in the initial investigation.

The pressure on the police was immense from the start, since

  • the congestion and waiting were too much for some to bear
  • connections were missed
  • the ship’s departure was delayed
  • the media immediately demanded detailed information
  • the local superiors of the police as well as the ministries had to be informed of the event as soon as possible.

Generally, however, both the departing and the arriving passengers were understanding of the difficult situation.

The investigation has lasted over four years already

The crime took place within the region of Åland, and therefore its investigation would normally have been conducted by the local police. Due to the lack of resources this was not possible in Åland. The provincial government of Turku and Pori assigned the Turku Police Department to conduct the investigation. The undersigned was appointed to lead the investigation. That was the beginning of a difficult task that has yet to be completed.

Because the crime could not immediately be solved in the initial investigation, solving it afterwards has been challenging due to the special characteristics of the case. The work has continued interminably for over four years. The fact that approximately a thousand people have been interrogated or at least interviewed on account of the case might give the reader an impression of the scope of the task. Forensic investigators have sent over 250 different samples for examination to the National Bureau of Investigation. Different investigative tasks have been carried out in nine different countries.

Computers have also been utilized in the investigation. Without them we would have long since lost track of the very vast material. Over 2000 documents have been saved on the computer.

A vast amount of material of the crime has, then, been gathered. Addressing it in detail is not possible at this juncture, nor would it be tactically right for the solving of the case.

What, then, was the motive of that brutal crime? That mystery, which has puzzled the investigators from the start, has yet to be solved. It cannot be financial or sexual. The crime may have been brought on by a minor thing, or committed by a mentally ill person.

At least the following matters have complicated the investigation:

  • the initial investigation had to be conducted too quickly due to the circumstances
  • even a slightly more thorough search of the ship would have taken at least a week
  • there were approximately 1400 people on the ship
  • this whole mass of people dispersed in the port and scattered all over world. Reaching them to perform even extremely significant inspections has been difficult
  • the crime scene was too remote for eyewitness accounts
  • the delays caused by a foreign country’s legal formalities have often prevented conducting effective investigative work abroad

The crime caused upset

The crime, which drew a lot of attention, has also clearly upset many already sick minds. Three people, for instance, have confessed to this crime.

In further investigation it has, however, turned out that none of them could possibly have committed the crimes described earlier.

The public has participated commendably in the police’s efforts to solve the crimes. There have also been a few concerned phone calls from the public upon their noticing they had been filmed. They have mainly been requests by the caller that the videos not be made public, as their companion on that voyage had, for some reason, not been their spouse!

Current situation

No conclusive knowledge of the perpetrator has been gained to this day.

Some foreign parties under investigation have yet to be reached.

A lot of investigations are also still being conducted concerning the doings of Finnish passengers and the ship’s crew during the journey.

When the culprit is found, the police has binding comparative evidence to use against them.

A certain possibility, which has come up repeatedly, is that the perpetrator concurrently also made their own personal choice regarding their life and jumped overboard.

Bettina Taxis has recovered quite well. Information received from her cannot yet be made public.

The police strongly believes that they will still solve this brutal, senseless and motiveless crime, the investigation of which has by no means been discontinued.

What has been put forth here is merely a cursory glance to this crime, its backgrounds, and investigation. Hopefully in one of the following volumes its solution can be reported in detail.

The clothing find

The police are currently interested in some clothes found by two fishermen on the northern shore of the Lilla Björnholm Island by a seaway in August, 1987. The following items were found in a black trash bag:

  • Finnish made Umberto Loofer shoes with a so called hidden heel, shoe size 41
  • light shorts by an unknown manufacturer equipped with a Prym zip and two front pockets (see photo)
  • a Finnish made red woollen-acrylic jumper, material mostly acrylic (see photo). In the same batch of clothes were also a pair of commonly sold work gloves with the initials “H. K.”

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(the found clothes)

Based on the location, time and certain aspects of the forensic investigation it is considered possible that the person wearing the clothes in question had been on the ship at the time of the crime.

If You, esteemed reader, have any, even seemingly insignificant, information regarding this crime, let the investigators know via the nearest police or relay the information directly to the Turku Police Department, address: Eerikinkatu 40-42, 20100 Turku.

If you know anything about these clothes or anything else having to do with the crime, let us know. In addition to a good mood, for a clue leading to the solving of the case you will be given a significant money prize.

The Martin Croft Devil. A Finnish poltergeist tale.

The following is an English translation of a chapter in the book Olevaisen yöpuoli (1993) by Heikki Tikkala, a collection of poltergeist and ghost stories from Finland. The translation was done with permission from Mr. Tikkala himself. Translated by Salla Juntunen.


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(the Martin croft)

The poltergeist of Martin’s croft is not exceptional when it comes to the quality of the case – similar phenomena have occurred in most other Finnish cases of poltergeist disturbance. What makes Martin’s poltergeist particularly noteworthy is the associated trial, during which fifteen affidavits were filed. The weight of these witness statements is significant even on an international scale.

The witness statements from the trial have been presented in numerous writings, most recently in Jarl Fahler’s book Parapsychology. Therefore I will not recount them in full here. While describing the event I rely heavily on Matti Seppä’s thorough report, which reviews almost everything that is known about the case.

On January 12th of the year 1885, the croft of Efraim Martin, the chairman of Ylöjärvi’s parish assembly and a former teacher, became haunted. The croft’s three inhabitants, Efraim, his wife Eva, and Emma Lindroos, their 13-year-old maid, noticed objects moving inexplicably. The door would not stay closed, papers from shut desk drawers flew on the floor, tens of litres of plastering fell on the floor from somewhere. The phenomena seemed to centre around the fatally ill Emma. The haunting continued for a little over two weeks up until January 27th and then ended as abruptly as it had begun. The writings of Tampere newspapers drew out so many people that master Efraim saw it best to move to Tampere for a few days in order to escape the curious eyes. Many visitors were in high spirits and heavily inebriated, which was likely a factor in Martin getting served a summons to appear in court.

Efraim Martin (1814-1890)

Alerted by the rumours, parish bailiff Kasimir Liljestrand visited the place and sent the governor of the province of Häme a letter in which he attempted to sort out what had happened. In his response the governor ordered the Martins to be prosecuted for witchcraft and the illegal sale of alcohol.

The hearings for the Martin case were held at the district court of Ylöjärvi on March 24th. The charges were deemed unfounded, but the most interesting part of the trial were of course the eyewitness accounts of the haunting. Out of the fifteen people called as a witness only one reported that they had not observed anything supernatural. The rest described 78 inexplicable phenomena altogether. Many of the most impressive ones are found in the testimony of Efraim Eerola:

From January 14th onwards, throughout the whole period of time in question, the witness had visited the Martin croft every day. The first time he visited – – he noticed that the window screens of the living room were smudged with clay, as were the floor and the furniture. He did not, however, notice any visible damages in the wall plastering. Upon inspecting the window screens they appeared to be stained with soap, not, however, stroked by a human hand. In the presence of the witness, crumbled clay accumulated on the floor in an invisible manner without anyone touching it or noticing from where and how it came. Three whole baskets worth of clay crumbs accumulated. – – Clay appeared on the floor twice and both times it was swept away carefully.

When specifically asked, the witness explained that the room’s ceiling was somewhat fragile and cracked, but he was prepared to assure under oath that the clay did not appear on the floors through the ceiling, as such amounts of clay travelling through the air would certainly have been noticed. Furthermore, one day the witness observed a massive knife fly past his face six times in a row, although without hitting him. He assumed that the knife initially flew from the next room and was then moved back and forth by some inexplicable force.

When the witness took a break from smoking and laid his pipe on the table, the pipe flew into the air as did stones and whetstones, as if moved in the air by an invisible force. One day the witness saw various objects and books fly out of a drawer that had been locked and, due to prior similar events, bound shut by a firm rope, without the drawer ever even slightly opening. One morning he was told that the legs of the sheep in the barn were tied. He went to release them and as he left the barn the latch on the door spun around in an unexplainable manner. When he went to the living room, under the table were discovered some strange rocks and Efraim Martin’s glasses, which had been thrown there from the desk drawer without anyone knowing how. The frames of the glasses had partially snapped and appeared to be burned. All these and many other events the witness saw every day, although he could not now recall them in full detail, and he assured upon his word that they were not brought about by humans but by spirits or other forces unknown to the witness. – –

Witness Eerola furthermore added that one day when he was in the croft’s kitchen he noticed a large amount of medicine bottles containing nitric acid, hydrochloric acid and other private substances gather on the table in an unknown manner. The bottles began jumping spontaneously, spilling their contents on the table where they began to boil and foam. The witness was also present during the back end of the haunting when ladles, buckets and other such household items appeared in the oven and there caught fire. The witness also assured that no cellar was found underneath the Martin house and therefore no such items could have been hidden there since the room stood on hard rock, and that the witness never checked whether some stranger could have been hiding in the room’s loft.

Most commonly the witnesses saw objects moving for no reason. A key, a pot, a saw, a pair of shoes, a candlestick, a brick, a hymn book, a matchbox and a stool, among others, jumped or outright flew in the air even though no one moved them. The candlestick appeared to have been the most popular target:

Gustaf Hellen sat at the end of the table. At that moment a piece the size of an egg detached from the candlestick standing on the table and inexplicably flew atop Emma Lindroos’s head, rotated angularly and fell at the witness’s feet, rotated once more on the floor and rolled into the corner of the candlelit room.

Karl Lindholm saw a candlestick twice fly towards the door and on the third time to the back of the room. The witness could not figure out from where the candlestick flew, but he believed that it could not have been launched by any human means, as the candlestick moved in a spinning motion as if held up by an invisible force. The candlestick had moved in a slow weaving motion, always turned upside down. Simultaneously, a clatter was heard from beneath the table. – Helena Punala had been sitting by the table alone when the candlestick flew off of it, therefore it could not have been thrown by any human.

The bread poles were another favourite target of the disturbances, three incidents relate to them. On one occasion four people witnessed them moving:

Gerhard Grönfors had visited the Martins in the middle of the day on January 18th. On that occasion, in a room where neither the Martin couple nor Emma Lindroos were present, shingles in the corner of the oven began jumping and spinning around each other. Additionally, two bread poles in the corner danced and struck together. At this point Eva Martin arrived, took one of the poles in her hand and slammed it to the floor three times saying: “Won’t you behave.” The witness inspected the corner in which the poles had stood thoroughly and found nothing suspicious. Alku Eerola confirmed Grönfors’s description and explained that he also inspected the corner. Gustaf Hellen and Henrik Asuntila also concurred with their statement.

The most famous singular phenomenon in the Martin disturbance was the knife flying six past Efraim Eerola’s face times in a row; it is referenced not only in Eerola’s witness statement but also in the broadside ballad written about the event. These witness statements clearly demonstrate objects flying unnaturally slowly or weavingly, which is typical of a poltergeist. In most cases, however, the objects simply flung themselves around.

There are some statements of teleportation, or objects transfering inexplicably. The accumulation of plastering on the floor must likely be considered teleportation since according to Efraim Eerola’s statement no one could explain where it came from. The case of Efraim Martin’s papers flying on the floor from a drawer tied with string without the string untying, which Alku Eerola also describes in his witness statement, must also be counted among unexplainable events.

martin

(another shot of the croft)

There were hardly any sound phenomena linked to the Martin poltergeist. On a few occasions the witnesses mention an unexplainable clatter or rumble. The clearest case has to do with the visit of sexton Lindell. The sexton had come to the croft to write a news piece, but had relocated to the shed in the yard due to the restlessness of the cottage.

Alerted by the noise, sexton Lindell hurried back into the room. There he saw the two boards of a dining table banging on its legs. When the witness pressed the other board with his knee, the other struck that much harder. Therefore the sides of the table were bound and also wedged with ropes for a good measure. Now the boards stayed immobile, but a puffing sound came from between them. The table jumped spontaneously a few times, approximately an inch off the floor. No hatches, loose planks or secret strings were observed by the sexton and therefore he did not deem it necessary to inspect other parts of the room.

The moving of objects and teleportation are the most strongly substantiated phenomena of the Martin croft. The testimony of sexton Lindell which stated that the spirit tied Emma Lindroos with rope as she lay in her bed is also rather interesting. The case of Eva Martin’s hands catching fire, which was mentioned in Jarl Fahler’s book, was proved by Matti Seppä to be a translation error: the witness meant that candles wouldn’t stay in Eva Martin’s hands.

The study of the case of the Martin croft is based almost exclusively on court documents. There is not a single eyewitness to be found in folk tales. An interesting addition to the case, however, is baron Schrenck-Notzig’s account of the haunting. He had received the German translation of the court transcripts as well as some additional information from his doctor colleague Yrjö Kulovesi from Tampere.

In 1921, Kulovesi had interviewed Efraim Martin’s then 79-year-old son Berndt Erland Martin in Tampere. Berndt Martin had not been home at the time of the haunting. The only witness Kulovesi met was Emil Keso, a householder from Aitolahti. He had visited the Martins together with Simo Laalahti and Efram Eerola, who was mentioned in the court transcripts.

The guests arrived between three and four in the afternoon. It was still light in the cottage. As they sat down, Laalahti’s mitten was thrown to Keso’s side of the bench. Keso then said: “Enough with the tricks, didn’t we just agree to avoid such mischief.” His mittens then flew away as well. Laalahti claimed that he had not thrown the mittens. In order to observe the situation as clearly as possible, the men sat on chairs in the middle of the room. Suddenly shingles began to fall from the beams in front of Keso’s feet. They flew closely side by side as if tied together by an invisible force, and when they fell at his feet they did not slide at all in the direction one would expect, but rather stayed still as if captured by a mysterious power. Ten shingles fell, all in all. In the room at the time were Eva Martin, Efraim Eerola and both householders. Keso could not recall if Emma Lindroos had also been present. At the same time, cobbler’s tools were thrown from the corner to Laalahti’s feet.

The Martin haunting was so versatile and the eyewitness statements so detailed that the ghost has certainly earned its international reputation. As the only Finnish poltergeist it rose to international fame when the court transcripts were published as widely distributed pamphlets. Considering the weight of the material it is therefore strange that the ghost was soon buried into dusty local history publications as a mere freak of folk religion. A truly encompassing analysis of the Martin poltergeist and its impact on our worldview remains in unmade in our cultural conversation.

kyltti-kummitustalolle

(a sign indicating the spot where the croft once stood. The sign says: “The spot of Efraim Martin’s croft. The building was moved downtown after Efraim’s death in the 1890s.” Photo: Pentti Säynäväjärvi)

Ghost Hunt in Finland

On an exceptionally hot Summer day, a group of people have gathered on the front yard of a suburban house in southern Finland. Many of these folks are dressed in black clothing, and look like they’re getting ready for a metal concert.

In reality, they’re readying themselves for something way more terrifying and, potentially, electrifying: a ghost hunt.

This piece was written by my friend Oona, who accompanied me to the event. Follow her on Instagram: @sirutar


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(The house where the ghost hunt took place)

The event has been organized by a Finnish ghost hunting team called Paranormal Investigations Group. Established a few years ago by brothers Mika and Markus Nikkilä, Paranormal Investigations Group do investigations into old houses and mansions, mainly using a ”ghost box”, an electronic device that scans radio stations non-stop, the belief being that it enables ghosts and spirits to communicate through the static noise created by the non-stop scan.

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(The Paranormal Investigations Group guys set up their equipment)

Before we enter the house where tonight’s investigation is to take place, the owner of the property where the house stands briefs us on the backstory that has led to this particular dwelling being chosen for a ghost hunt:

A man and his son used to live here. They were very close, and only had each other. When the man died, his son fell into a deep depression, and ultimately hanged himself in here, using a rope he attached to the top of the stairs leading to the second floor.”

Mika from the Group then gives us the final instructions:

If anobody feels bad or has anxiety during the session, let us know and we will help you out immediately! Try to concentrate on just this investigation, and leave everything else out of your minds. Relax, breathe deep, and immerse yourselves in the story of this house and this moment we’re about to share together.”

And with these words, we enter the house.

Filled with excitement and anticipation I climb the narrow stairs. The upstairs is hot, and being in the same room with a dozen other people is a good way to cause anxiety by itself. There are some small items on the wall reminding of the past, of the fact that human beings once lived here, but otherwise the room is empty. The place has a moldy smell, that specific aroma of an old house that has been unoccupied for some time.

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(the Paranormal Investigations Group guys and their medium, Sanna)

People gather to the back of the room, as the investigators set their equipment in the middle. Somebody switches off the lights, and we’re ready to begin.

The “ghost box” starts buzzing, and the crowd listens attentively. The investigators’ handheld electricity detection devices flash orange and red, the lights indicating that something is present. The investigators ask: “Has something bad happened here?” The lights flash red, the ghost box gives out some words and beeps which, to me, don’t convey any information. The medium explains that the spirit said ”yes”.

She scribbles things to her notebook, and in a moment says that the spirit feels uncomfortable with all the females in the room. I am not surprised, as the man who committed suicide in the house generally didn’t have female company around. Many of the questions asked get answers through the box and the medium. Some are left unanswered. The investigators ask the spirit to give a sign that he’s present. A couple of visitors inform they feel a burning sensation on their arm at that very moment.

The adjacent room is not as active. For whatever reason, the voice in the ghost box sounds more child-like in this room. The answers aren’t as clear or frequent as they were in the other room. I do notice a couple of people stroking their arms like something had touched them, so maybe this spirit just doesn’t feel as talkative, but instead prefers a different approach in making his/her presence felt.

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(What it looked like with the lights off)

After a short break and some fresh air, we head back inside to see if the downstairs rooms will give us more info. We gather again around the room with more questions in our minds.

This time the lights indicate a spirit being definitely near one person in the room; even when this person is asked to move to another spot, the lights still signal the same thing. According to the investigators translating the ghostly messages to us less familiar with them, there seems to also be a female spirit present in the space. She responds to questions, and guides us towards certain topics. She briefly mentions “a lake” (Finnish “järvi”), possibly indicating some sort of a connection to a nearby body of water.

The folks taking part in this expedition seem to be getting a hang of this, and are more relaxed as we step in the last room of the tour. Our guides decide to let loose, and tell whoever is listening from beyond to use whatever means possible to make their presence known. Several people claim to feel rushes of energy, and dramatic changes in their body temperature. The ghost box is suddenly more active than it was before, but no grand narrative emerges; the ghosts keep their secrets with them.

As we prepare to wrap up this unusual couple of hours, one of the Investigations Group members asks: “Would you like us to leave?” The ghost box answers very clearly this time: “Heippa!” (“Bye bye!”)

As the participants walk out of the house, many of them gather around to discuss their experiences. Some are perhaps skeptical while others have had their deepest convictions fulfilled. One thing is for sure, though: we have all just spent our Saturday night doing something very unusual.

One less item on the bucket list.


1 ) Who are you guys? Tell us a bit about yourselves!

MARKUS: My name is Markus Nikkilä. I’m from the town of Valkeakoski. I’m in my thirties, and have been interested in paranormal phenomena for a long time.

MIKA: I’m Mika Nikkilä, 44 years old. This [paranormal field] has always felt like my “thing”. For the past four years, my brother and I have been delving deeper into paranormal phenomena [through Paranormal Investigations Group]

2) Where did this interest in the paranormal start?

MARKUS: It’s been with me ever since I was a kid, a really long time.

MIKA: Neither of us has ever had a paranormal experience of our own, not before this. That’s a good question, it’s really difficult to say where this started…

MARKUS: Yeah, I can’t really say either.

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3) How do you find the locations you investigate?

MARKUS: We use Google to look for interesting spots: manors, strange buildings, et cetera. We also receive messages from regular people, asking us to come investigate their house.

MIKA: We receive literally hundreds of messages from people. Many of them want us to come over and investigate because they suspect they might be going crazy if they witness paranormal phenomena in their homes, and want us to come over and either confirm or deny the presence of something paranormal.

Over time, this [Paranormal Investigations Group] has gotten bigger, to the point where we’ve done some TV appearances even, but these are only side effects: our emphasis has always been and always will be in investigating paranormal phenomena, not on being famous.

MARKUS: The media has become interested in us because people in general are interested in these types of phenomena.

4) Why do you think that is?

MIKA: The way I see it, I think it’s partly because many famous people have come out of the closet with their paranormal experiences, and thus inspired and encouraged regular people to open up about their own experiences as well. They realize that these experiences are very common, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

What has been the most thrilling moment in your investigations so far?

MIKA: We were in a manor in Valkeakoski. Throughout the investigation, we could literally hear someone or something walking upstairs, right above us. This went on for maybe 8 or 10 minutes. But this is just one example – we oftentimes feel touches, hear whispers, those types of things.

And another memorable experience was the Kytäjä manor, because of it’s grim history. I felt like I constantly had to look over my shoulder while we were in there.

[Kytäjä manor has seen several suicides over the decades, and in the 1970s the lord of the manor, Kai Vähäkallio, brutally murdered three youngster who had camped out on the manor’s land. Vähäkallio, too, later committed suicide.]

One thing that’s oftentimes mentioned in connection with the kinds of investigations that you do is the potential danger of it. Do you think it’s possible that something might “follow” you home from an investigation, something malicious? Do you prepare for that somehow?

MIKA: It’s absolutely a real threat! We’re dealing with forces way bigger than us, and totally out of our control. But it’s a chance we’re willing to take.

As for how we prepare ourselves, I’m not a specifically religious person, but I always recite the “Our Father” prayer before we go into a house. Also, if things get too intense inside a house, it’s time to take a break and think about the situation for a while.

MARKUS: You have to be sensitive to your own emotions, and monitor your own feelings throughout an investigation.

Do you guys have a “dream location” you would love to investigate? If you could travel in time and space to anywhere you’d like.

MIKA: I don’t know if it would be appropriate to actually do so, but a part of me would like to spend a night in Auschwitz.

MARKUS: Mine would be an old castle of some sort in England.

Do you have any specific plans for the future?

MIKA: As long as our hearts and minds are dedicated to this, we will keep doing it. There are all kinds of cooperative projects in the works, and they are welcome, but ultimately the inner desire to do this is the most important factor. Once that disappears, Paranormal Investigations Group will stop what it’s doing.

Where will you be this summer?

MIKA: Next week we’ll be filming for a television channel. And in September, we will collaborate with magician Noora Karma on an investigation in a big manor. Those are a couple of certain plans.

But we’re always on the lookout for new houses to investigate, just the two of us, without any cameras or extra partakers.

Thanks guys, and good luck with everything!

Thanks Teemu!

 

 

 

 

Interview with a Homicide Detective

Some weeks ago, I sent a general interview request to the Helsinki Police Department’s Violent Crimes Division, asking them if one of their homicide detectives might be interested in talking to me for a blog post.

Luckily for me, I received a reply from one detective who promised to help me out and be interviewed. There was one important condition, though: no names would be mentioned, neither in our conversation nor in this ensuing blog post.

I traveled to the police building in Helsinki in early June, excited by the prospect of talking to someone who’s job is true crime. I wasn’t disappointed: I was met by a polite, very intelligent gentleman who shook my hand and welcomed me with a friendly smile.

We went to an interrogation room (perfect setting, eh?), I turned on the recorder, and the conversation started to flow.

Most of the questions I asked him were submitted by followers at my Instagram account; thanks to everyone who took part!


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(My interviewee’s ID wallet. Detectives wear this inside the police building and in their field investigations.)

1) What’s your background? What led you to becoming a cop?

Without going into too much detail, my professional background is in the civilian field, where I worked before becoming a cop.

I was 26 years old when I applied for police academy, and was accepted. I’m 44 years old now.

Of course, it requires a certain inner “incitement” to want to be a cop: you have to have the desire to want to try a difficult job like this. And I myself knew from the very start that this particular field of police work [homicide division] was where I was aiming at, where I wanted to work.

As for other reasons, let’s just say that death has always followed by my side ever since my childhood. I’m sure that has played a part in directing me towards a job like this.

2) In terms of police hierarchy, how does one technically get to the position of homicide detective?

The path to being a detective in the Finnish police force does not correlate with the path portrayed in television shows, where they first work the beat, then end up a detective. The role of a detective within the Finnish police is also not similar to the role of a detective in, say, the US police.

Oftentimes the journey to becoming a detective does indeed follow the standard beat-cop-then-detective route, but the Finnish Police also trains people to go straight to the detective bureau. Things have changed quite a bit in this regard since I became a police officer.

3) If somebody wants to work as a homicide detective, what kind of advice would you give them?

The most important thing is life experience: you have to understand life and the human mind before you can do this job successfully. When you know what happens out there in the world, it’s a lot easier to deal with what you see and experience in this job.

It’s a good idea to do something else first, before you become a cop. If you’re overly career-oriented, and enter police academy directly after your military service, your life experience will be quite minimal. And this can backfire on you when you have to actually deal with human beings through this job.

4) Take us through an average day in your job!

There are different kinds of days in my work.

You have days when you’re the detective “on call”, and on those days you work from 7 in the morning to around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, when the next shift comes in. On these days, you’re out in the field responding to calls and cases that come in that day. Once your shift is over, the day is done.

You also have “office days”, which is when you do paperwork, carry out interrogations, communicate with individuals arrested for crimes, et cetera.

When a case hits you that demands greater investigative intensity, days can, of course, stretch quite a bit beyond the usual. But in general, we work during office hours, though we of course also have weekend shifts.

-) does one detective investigate one case, or are cases delegated from one shift to another?

There is always a lead investigator, but usually, in the crucial initial stages of an investigation, extra hands are needed. And bigger cases are investigated by more detectives – the bigger the case, the more investigators work on it.

But, ultimately one lead investigator will put the various pieces together and write a report of the entire case.

5) How long are investigations in general? Does it vary a lot?

It varies quite a bit. If you have someone in custody, there’s only so long you can keep them, and in cases like that the investigation has to be carried out quicker. We’re talking months here, usually.

On average, I’d say an investigation lasts from around a month to around four months.

6) In terms of the “categories” of cases currently on your table, how many of them are killings, how many are assaults and batteries, and how many are missing persons cases?

Missing persons cases flow in regularly, especially over Summer. Inquests are also an integral part of our job [determining the cause of someone’s death. -admin]; I have around fifty inquests on my table right now. As for killings, I have one “open” investigation on my table right now. And also, I have some battery and assault -cases under investigation.

-) You mentioned that Summers create a peak in missing persons cases. Why?

Well, people are on a roll. *laughs* Weekends tend to stretch deep into the next week, and relatives and family members file reports of their lost lambs. But usually, these types of people are eventually found.

People who actually disappear, in the truer sense of the word, are fairly rare, but occasionally you run into cases like that, too. These types of cases can happen at any time during the year. These types of missing persons are usually found drowned in lakes, or dead in forests, et cetera.

7) What is it like to encounter the loved ones of victims? Family, friends, those types of people.

You encounter different kinds of reactions from different kinds of people. There’s really no way to prepare for their reaction, because it can be essentially anything.

Delivering the news of a person’s death or disappearance to their loved ones is one of the most challenging aspects of this job. But there’s a saying I think goes well with this aspect of the job: “A job chooses its workers”. In other words, this job tends to appeal to people who can deal with powerful and difficult emotions. So this aspect of the job is not overwhelmingly difficult for me.

It all comes down to the one’s ability to handle death, and all the various phenomena associated with it.

8) What is the strangest case you’ve ever worked?

*thinks for a long time* There are many of them. Life is bizarre. It’s really difficult for me to pick one. I’ve worked on some sexual crime investigations, and I guess you could say that that’s the area of crime where the “strangest” cases are.

But on average, it’s really difficult for me to pick one case, because there are so many strange cases in all these various “categories”. There are strange suicides, strange murders, and strange incidents in this job in general. Most people don’t even know how bizarre some of the things that happen out there can be. You see a slice of life in this job that most people can’t even imagine.

9) What is the average Finnish suicide like? Is there such a thing?

There are several ways people commit suicides. The most common in Finland is probably hanging, followed by an overdose of medication, throwing oneself under a train, et cetera.

As for the types of people who commit suicides, I’d say that people who have lost control of their lives, and can’t find another solution or way forward. Beyond that, we have all kinds of suicide victims: men, women, old people, young people. From 15-year-olds to pensioners.

-) from the point of view of a detective, do you think suicides are increasing or decreasing in Finland?

From my point of view, during Spring and early Summer, there’s a peak in the number of suicides. I’m not a statistician so I can’t say why, but I think it’s because many people are depressed over the dark Winter, and they have their hopes set on Spring and sunshine, that the emerging Summer will save them from depression. Then, when that doesn’t happen, they feel hopeless, and suicide becomes a prevalent idea in their minds.

10) Is there any one case that has stuck with you for a long time, or are you able to simply move on from one case to the next?

I’d be lying if I said that nothing ever sticks with me, but on average, you can’t get stuck with these matters; it’s unprofessional. If you’re a detective, and you notice that you’re overly bothered by the things you see and experience in your work, it’s time to get a new job. And I personally leave work-related matters at the workplace; I don’t carry them home with me.

11) Is there a certain “category” of cases that tend to stay with you longer than others?

I know you expect me to say “murders” or “crimes related to children”, or something like that. *laughs* But, frankly, my job is to investigate these cases, and the work needs to get done, so in terms of what types of things cause me stress, I’d say I stress more over things like investigative strategies: “What do I ask at an interrogation tomorrow? How do I approach this case? What should I do to break this case?” Those are the types of things I might think about at night when I lay awake in bed.

12) When you are assigned to a case, do you have to start everything over every time (sort of “re-invent the wheel” every time), or are there enough investigative tools and strategies you can apply each time to get you started?

Certain basic things are done each time. Of course it depends on the nature of the case: if it’s a simple case, there’s no need to overdo the investigation, even if it’s a homicide case.

The hardest ones are so called “dark homicides”, cases where you only have a body, and essentially no other relevant information. Those are the types of cases where you have to start anew each time, and they take a much longer time to get solved.

13) What are the sort of basic tools in your job? In other words, when a doctor receives a new patient, he/she will begin by analyzing the patient’s pulse, take a blood sample, listen to the patient’s heartbeat, etc. What is on a homicide detective’s “check list”?

The first thing to do is to talk to the people involved. Family, friends, witnesses. That’s where I start an investigation.

Technical investigation will proceed at the same time. Material relating to the crime is collected and analyzed, and the detective has to decide what is pertinent, what needs further analysis, and what is not so pertinent.

But talking to the people involved is the key element. You have to start by asking “What happened? Why did it happen?”

14) If you look at TV shows and films, the role of DNA in crime investigation is often emphasized. How useful is DNA in real homicide investigation? Can you get a DNA analysis any time you ask?

DNA is a huge help. It plays a huge role in homicide investigations, and it’s importance is constantly increasing. DNA is a little problematic in the sense that it can be contaminated fairly easily. But still, it’s a big help in my work.

I can get a DNA analysis anytime I ask for one. A special laboratory at the NBI [“National Bureau of Investigations”, essentially Finland’s equivalent to the American FBI. -admin] is responsible for most DNA analyses. Our own unit here decides what we send them, then they do the scientific work, and send us their findings.

krp dna

(NBI crime lab in Vantaa, Finland. Photo: Compic / Markku Ojala)

15) When you’re collecting evidence and investigating a case, how much do you reflect on whether something will be permissible in court?

You have to take that perspective into account. For example, the investigation report we send forward has to lay out the case and pertaining evidence in a simple, easily understandable form, because you’re ultimately not writing it for yourself – you’re writing it for the court, for the prosecutor, and for the attorneys. So you have to reflect on the material from that perspective.

16) As for unsolved cases, have you personally ever investigated a homicide that ended up going unsolved?

I myself have never had that happen to me, but there are battery and assault cases that are unsolved on my desk. But homicides… No wait, there is one! But that’s just one case over a period of over 15 years, and I’m talking about the “scoreboard” of the entire unit here, not just my own cases.

17) Are there factors that are similar all across the board of unsolved homicides? Some elements that make them particularly difficult to solve?

In some sense, yes. If the victim is a totally normal person with no criminal background, no friends or partners who have criminal backgrounds, no ties to the underworld, the homicide can be particularly hard to solve. What adds to the difficulty is if the person has been dead for some time before he/she is found: that makes it harder to analyze the body and the surroundings.

18) The stereotype about the average Finnish homicide goes something like this: X and Y are drinking. They’re both super-drunk, and haven’t eaten in a while, which makes their blood sugar level low, causing aggression. At some point, Y makes some innocent comment that X interprets as an insult. In the heat of the moment, X stabs Y, and Y dies. The next morning, X doesn’t even remember what happened. How truthful would you say this stereotype is?

It’s quite truthful – it often goes exactly like that. What’s much more rare is when two total strangers meet, and a killing occurs. They happen, but they’re very rare. The scenario you just described is a lot more common.

19) How about Finland’s professional criminals and their circles, are there cases where a person is killed for “business”?

Yes, it happens. Plus there are foreign gangs and criminals who now operate in Finland, and they add to these statistics, too.

The violence in Finland’s professional criminal underworld isn’t nearly on the level of what’s going on in, say, the South American drug gangs, but these professional “hits” do happen here as well.

20) Are you ever faced with situations where someone is clearly guilty of a crime, but the evidence simple is not enough to convict him/her?

Yes. The only thing you can do is just try everything you can, but if the evidence is not enough, all you can do is accept it. You can’t take this work personally. Some cops DO take situations like that personally, and it just makes their lives harder.

21) Does a Finnish detective ever come across these “confessers”, people who try to paint themselves as guilty of crimes they really had nothing to do with?

Yes, we have those here as well. Especially in bigger cases that are featured in the media.

As for why they do it, I think it’s just a matter of need for attention: they want officials and the public to notice them, it gives them a sense of meaning.

22) How much of detective work is intuition and how much is the daily grind of collecting evidence and analyzing it?

Intuition of course plays a part in this, but the thing about intuition is that sometimes it can be really strong, and still lead you on the wrong track. *laughs* But intuition is oftentimes correct, too.

I personally have noticed that intuition plays a big part in cases where we receive a report of a homicide, and go to the scene to investigate. Then when I get to the scene of the supposed crime, I get an intuitive feeling, just from a few glimpses around the scene, that it wasn’t a homicide at all, but much more likely a suicide. When I investigate the scene further, I notice that my intuition was correct.

But overall, this isn’t a game of intuition, but of rigorous examination, investigation, and analysis.

23) How often are cases solved on the basis of one piece of evidence, the proverbial “smoking gun”?

Cases are rarely solved on the basis of one piece of evidence. More often than not, it’s a matter of causalities: one thing connects to another, and so on. The result is a sum of various small parts that, when connected, point in a specific direction.

24) Forensic science is developing all the time. Are criminals coming up with counter-measures?

Well, in general, criminals are aware of new investigative techniques and forensic science. But they will often forget these things in the heat of the moment, when committing a crime. Some of them use gloves more these days to avoid leaving behind evidence. But overall, these counter-measures are fairly minimal and ineffective.

25) Do you ever come across criminals, murderers in particular, who genuinely cold and ruthless?

If we talk about things like serial killers, we don’t have too many of them here [in Finland]. But we do have them. For example, lately there’s been a case in the news that revolves around a genuine serial killer.*

We also have professional criminals, whose “jobs” involve violence. These people are called “torpedoes”, and our unit has had cases where the perpetrator has been just such a “torpedo”. So they do exist.

penttilä

(*The detective is referring to the case of Mikael Penttilä, a serial killer who strangles his victims. He has been in the news lately after yet another murder attempt).

26) Is there something you wish people would know more about, with regard to your work or the lessons you’ve learned in life in general?

I’m hesitant about giving advice to anyone, but… *thinks for a long time* One think I would advice people to do more is use common sense. That’s one thing that’s totally missing in many of the circumstances that produce the cases I work on. Regardless of educational or social background, one thing that connects many of my “clients” is that they’ve acted with no regard for common sense.

27) Has this job changed you? For example, do you avoid certain kinds of movies nowadays, having seen what you have seen?

I’m sure it has changed me. A job always changes a person. But I still like the kinds of things I always liked. So yeah, my job has changed me I’m sure, but not in the sense that I would avoid certain things nowadays.

28) How do you deal with the darker side of this job? Through sports, talking to colleagues, something like that?

I simply try to do things that I enjoy. I haven’t encountered a case that would have proven too difficult to deal with – yet! Let’s see if that happens one day. *laughs* But, like I said before, this is a job that attracts certain kind of people, people who are able to deal with the darker side of things.

29) What kind of a person should NOT apply to be a homicide detective?

The kind of person who takes cases personally. A person who wants to save the world through this job will not last for a very long time.

There have been people like that here in our unit as well, and they’ve usually quickly realized that this job is too much for them, so they’ve and been re-assigned.

30) The law forms the basis of your job. Is the law always 100 percent sacred, or have you ever had to “twist” it a bit to solve a case?

Police work is closely monitored, and everything is based on the law. This is an absolute, unconditional fact that no police officer can get around. Sometimes it makes things more difficult, sometimes the law might produce situations where it’s difficult to function as a detective, but this is how it is. Certain new directives and sections in the law have made this work even more difficult nowadays, but you have to follow the law nevertheless, otherwise this job would be pointless.

31) How are police officers trained in the law?

They teach you the law in police academy, but us cops are not jurists; I often have to pull out a law book to look things up. Judicial oversight is more the responsibility of the police chiefs. But of course, the law dictates what I can and cannot do in my area of work, so I have to be aware of it, too.

32) What kind of a cooperation exists between a detective and the prosecutor?

The cooperation is pretty seamless. We consult each other all the time about cases, and hold meetings between cops and prosecutors to discuss various matters. This cooperation doesn’t exist in all cases, but in many cases it’s very important.

33) The cliche is that detectives hate defense lawyer. Is this true?

*laughs* It’s not true. There are good and bad lawyers. Some are very pro-police, others are very anti-police. Here in Finland nowadays, the defense lawyer is almost always present at interrogations, for example, especially if the crime is serious. Ten years ago, this was different: the lawyer was not present back then.

-) Does the defense lawyer ever tell the client to “shut up”, like in the movies?

Very rarely. In fact, usually they might do the very opposite and advice their client to be honest and come clean.

But sure, sometimes you come across what we call “crook lawyers”, who try everything they can to make the police work more difficult.

34) What goes through your mind when you’re face to face with a killer? Do you think there’s something categorically “different” about them, something “evil” that can be sensed by just being in their presence?

This would imply a true psychopath, but the people I come across in this job are rarely psychopaths. A genuinely “evil” culprit is rare. Even with regard to the more serious offenders, rather than psychopathy, the problem more often is that they simply have a totally different kind of a moral compass: something that’s forbidden to the rest of us might be “OK” in their minds.

A real psychopath can usually be recognized by their attitude towards their crime. They’re emotionally cold, indifferent towards other people’s suffering.

But usually, the culprits of crimes feel very remorseful of their deeds after they’ve sobered up, and the full realization of what they’ve done hits them.

35) How big a part does alcohol play in Finnish assaults and killings?

An enormous role.

-) In your opinion, how could this be changed?

People should drink less, and leave that knife at home when they leave the house. If people followed this advice, we’d have a lot less killings. Because the formula is that someone drinks too much, and when the night doesn’t go as they planned, they pull that knife out of their pocket and use it to try to solve whatever problem they have.

-) in your opinion, what goes into drunk people when this happens? Why does that knife come out?

They lose their temper over something. One thing culprits often mention in interrogations is that moment when everything “blacks out”: it’s like something went “click” in their head, and after that, they just blacked out with rage, so they did whatever it is they did.

36) Any regrets over choices you’ve made in your life or work?

No regrets. It’s good as it is.

37) On average, how accurate are TV shows and films that feature police work?

Sometimes very inaccurate, sometimes very accurate – it varies quite a bit from show to show and from writer to writer. Just like with books.

If you want authenticity, you should always be aware of who is behind a show or movie.

-) What would you recommend as realistic books or TV shows?

If you’re interested in authentic portrayals of detectives working at violent crimes units, I would recommend the Finnish Marko Kilpi or Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. Joensuu was one of our detectives here! His books are mostly set in the 1970s and 1980s, but they’re still fairly accurate, and still reflect the work of a violent crimes detective quite well.

joensuu

(One of Joensuu’s books. This one is based on a true story.)

38) What’s the most horrible crime scene you’ve ever been at?

*thinks for a long time* A block of flats with stairs going up to the second floor. Below the stairs lies the body of a victim who has been beaten into a totally unrecognizable state. I go upstairs, and the hallway is covered in blood. As I enter a room, inside I see pools and sprays of blood everywhere.

-) We agreed not to mention names or go too deep into spesifics, but let’s say that in general, what may have caused such a bloodbath?

Alcohol may have a played a part, and contributed to the events. The culprit, still drunk, may have tried to move the body somewhere to hide it, but may have failed.

39) Have you ever had to investigate family killings, where a parent has killed their entire family, including the children?

I haven’t had such cases, but I have investigated a case where the children were spared, but one parent killed the other.

40) These family killings are quite shocking and incomprehensible; it seems to absurd and crazy that someone would kill their whole family, children included. Why do you think these “family mass murders” happen?

They usually involve an enormous anguish. Something has gone seriously wrong, and it seems there’s no way forward, no solution to the problems. And in that dark state of mind, somebody makes the evaluation that it would be best for everyone if all the members of the family perished together.

As horrible as it sounds, family killings are often done out of a sense of love. The person who carries out the killing doesn’t want his/her family to go on suffering. We cops often use the term “extended suicide” about cases like these.

41) Have you ever investigated a case where the evidence pointed in one direction and your intuition pointed somewhere else, and it finally turned out that your intuition was correct?

I’ve had these types of cases. Let’s say we have a potential culprit in custody, and I interrogate this person. Upon talking to the person, I might be overcome with a sense that, despite the evidence, this person is not our guy. And later it turns out I was right.

42) Are you still occasionally shocked by death and blood, these kinds of things?

No. I never have been shocked by such things.

43) Is there any one particular case that has made you hate mankind?

*laughs* No.

44) The ease with which you’re able to handle the darker side of this job, do you think it’s innate, something you’re born with, or do you think it’s something that can be practiced and cultivated?

My opinion is that it’s innate. It’s something that comes from your very personality.

45) Does every detective have a “breaking point”?

I’ve never had a case that would have broken me, but frankly, too much bureaucracy can break any cop. But maybe one day I will be assigned to a case that breaks me! We’ll see.

46) If you were not a detective, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?

I have that background in civilian work, and I might be doing that job. But I’ve been doing this for so long, I don’t see switching jobs as a realistic scenario at this point. Maybe I’ll switch to a different department inside the police organization, but not to a totally different field of work.

47) Do you see this your retirement job?

Well, that’s one option, but… This job is getting more and more entangled in bureaucracy, which makes it harder and harder to do. This is due to changes inside the organization, changes in the law, new directives, all that. But retiring from this is one possibility.

48) Does humankind have any hope?

*laughs* There’s always hope. We’re not doing THAT bad.

49) Do you feel safe in your job? Have you ever had to fear for your safety in your free time because of what you do for a living?

So far, I feel safe.

-) Do professional criminals respect the police? In the sense that they don’t come threaten you if they see you at a pub, or something like that?

Well, if we talk about genuine professional criminals, there’s a certain respect there that goes both ways. You rarely have any such problems with them.

“Wannabe-gangsters” are a bigger problem, and much more likely to cause problems in a cop’s private life as well.

50) Why is the Finnish crime rate relatively low?

This is a question for a statistician; I can’t really say. From my grassroots perspective, we a shitload of work all the time. *laughs*

51) How do you keep the various cases on your table in order in your mind?

Thankfully, we don’t get all the cases in the department, just the ones that are delegated to us because of our expertise. I have various cases on my table, but not all of them keep me busy all the time. For instance, the inquests that I have on my responsibility sit there while I wait for coroner’s statements and other information; once I have that info, the inquests are simply archived. So they only keep me busy for a while, and then move on to await other information.

52) Does Finland have serial killers? I’m speaking of that classic type of serial killer who seeks out a victim, kills the victim, then goes into a “cooling off” period before striking again.

Yes, we do have them. And I believe we might have more of them on our radar if we could connect more cases through evidence.

53) What do you think about mediums and clairvoyants who say they work with the police in solving cases, finding missing people, etc.?

I’m open-minded, and wouldn’t categorically deny the possibility that something like this could possibly happen. However, I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on their claims. I don’t know of a single investigation where our unit would have employed a medium to help out.

Mostly, these mediums tell a person exactly what they want to hear, and this is of no use in a police investigation.

54) Have you yourself ever had a paranormal experience?

Let’s just say that I have received a greeting from beyond the grave.

55) Immigration to Finland has increased quite a bit in the recent years. From your perspective, have immigrants brought with them particular kinds of crime? Or have you seen an increase in immigrants in some area of crime?

I’m going to leave this question unanswered.

56) In terms of missing persons cases, are there certain factors that feature again and again in disappearances? Some types of similarities between the cases?

Unstable youths who have been placed in foster homes are a common group in disappearances. Sometimes we also have cases where someone simply does not want to be in contact with their families, and disappear because of this.

But regardless of age or gender or any other factor, all kinds of people disappear.

57) Do you spend any free time investigating “classic” crime cases?

I have no energy left for free-time homicide investigations. *laughs*

58) If you could travel in time and space and investigate any unsolved crime you choose, which case would you choose to investigate?

Probably the Jack the Ripper murders from Whitechapel in England.

-) what would you do differently than the original detectives?

There’s very little I could do, considering the rudimentary investigative methods of the late 1800s. There was no DNA, no CCTV cameras. All those detectives had were interrogations and witnesses. They basically would have had to catch him red-handed.

And finally, my regular questions:

59) Your top 3 movies?

There are so many of them, as movies are a hobby of mine. But I would say:

  1. Taxi Driver (1976)
  2. Scarface (1983)
  3. Casino (1995)

60) Your top 3 songs?

  1. Metallica – Fade to Black
  2. Opeth – Burden
  3. Alice Cooper – He’s Back

61) Your top 3 books?

Hard one. I’ve been reading since I was ten.

  1. Stephen King – The Dead Zone
  2. Bernard Cornwell – The Last Kingdom
  3. Conn Iggulden – Wolf of the Plains

62) What model phone do you use?

iPhone 7