(The following is a chapter from my upcoming book, Northern Lights Sonata.)
On the 3rd of February 1984 the narrative of average, everyday Finnish life was cut off by a gunshot in the night. The shot would produce one of the strangest homicides in Finnish history, a seemingly baffling killing that appears to have no motive, no perpetrator and no sense whatsoever.
The eighties were a period of excess: it appears that whatever people were up to in those days, they were involved in it 100 percent. Yuppies on Wall Street did more cocaine than Pablo Escobar’s personal army of bodyguards combined, fashion was, let’s say, “experimental” to the fullest, and Rambo didn’t miss with a single bullet while blowing away the enemies of freedom.
In a snowy Finland in February 1984, far away from the limousines of Wall Street, a young couple were enjoying a cozy pint in a bar on Iso-Roobertinkatu, Helsinki.
(David Holloway. Photo credit © Alibi)
The duo, a man and a woman, deviated from the regular customer base of the place. The man, named David Holloway, was Canadian and his wife Linda Jakobsen was Danish. A strange reason had brought them to Finland, one very much tied to the aforementioned excesses and fads of the era.
As it happens, they were both wholeheartedly dedicated to an unusual fad: macrobiotic lifestyle. This is a way of life where one’s diet is a kind of mixture of spirituality and cuisine, an attempt to balance one’s energies through the application of a dietary plan aimed at harmonizing the yin and the yang.
A year earlier the couple had been in England, where they had met a Finnish entrepreneur who worked in supplying macrobiotic paraphernalia customers. The man had convinceded the couple that the place to be for anyone wanting learn more about this “spiritual diet” was Finland, a small country in northern Europe known for its deep connection with nature.
In ’84 David and Linda had made the trek to Finland to further their study of all things macrobiotic, and were living in a commune near downtown Helsinki. Other members of the commune would later remember the couple fondly as friendly and helpful.
But back to that bar.
Around three o’clock in the morning David and his girlfriend decided they’d had their last pints for the night; it was time to head home from the bar. They chose a route leading through downtown, then across a big park, and finally along the shore of a large pond near the park; the cozy wooden house where the commune resided was located next to this body of water.
As they were walking across the park (named Kaisaniemen puisto, “Kaisaniemi Park”) for some odd reason no one knows to this day David told his girlfriend that he wanted to hurry up before her, telling her they would see each other at home. And so, he took off, jogging ahead of his girlfriend before ultimately disappearing from her sight.
Linda kept a more leisurely pace, walking after her boyfriend. After a few minutes she noticed something on the path ahead, something that looked like a black trash bag or a coat laying on the path as though discarded by its owner. When she finally reached a point where she could make out the actual shape of the object, she went into shock – it was David, laying on the path. At first she thought he had had a seizure of some sort, but then she could make out something troubling in the darkness – blood. It looked as though David had been shot or stabbed.
She quickly ran to the nearest building and woke up the resident, desperate for help. Accompanied by this friendly stranger she made her way back to David. The stranger confirmed it: David had been shot in the head. Time to call the cops and an ambulance, in the slim hope that they might still be able to revive the young man.
(Police recreation of the crime scene. © Alibi)
David was still alive when the ambulance blazed through the snowy night, but only technically; he died in the hospital a few hours later.
The police detectives investigating the crime were in for a headache. David appeared to have no known enemies, nor did Linda for that matter. The couple were simply in Finland as students, studying a kind of variation on the old Eastern theme of harmony and balance.
David’s circle of friends, his co-workers at his job, and Linda’s acquaintances and friends were all investigated, but to no avail. People in the commune were interrogated. Nothing. There simply was no suspect.
So what happened to David Holloway, student of macrobiotic diet from Canada? The possible scenarios essentially have to be built from scratch, but we can speculate.
1) A freak accident.
Maybe someone was cleaning their gun on their balcony when it accidentally went off and hit the unsuspecting victim. This theory has a certain brutal logic to it, but it fails to explain David’s bizarre need to hurry up before his girlfriend.
2) A random killing by a wannabe serial killer
This is the kind of lazy theory that can easily be applied to any mystery. Cases where someone simply decides to murder the first person they come across to see what it feels like to kill are extremely rare they are practically nonexistent. Having spoken with police detectives and other experts on crime for this book, I can say with some certainty that this type of scenario is very, very unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely.
3) Holloway led a dark double life
We all carry secrets in our hearts that we have never shared with anyone. Some of them are too painful to share, while others we keep to ourselves because they might cause pain to our loved ones.
It is entirely possible that Holloway was involved in something less than noble, and this double life caught up with him in the form of a bullet. However, again we have to ask: how LIKELY is this?
Holloway was living in a strange country, and his Finnish language skills were not adequate to build a network of criminal enterprise, especially one so serious that those involved got killed if they made a mistake. Furthermore, Holloway was from a respected and reasonably wealthy family in Canada, and was not so poor as to have to resort to crime.
It does, however, seem as though David deliberately wanted to disappear from the view of his girlfriend, perhaphs to meet up with someone in secret. But who? And why?
As for Linda, there was never any indication that she would have been involved in the killing, either. The two were not married, so she was not set to inherit David, nor is there any other discernible reason why she would have assassinated her boyfriend in cold blood.
Over 30 years later, we still have no clue what happened. The police believe they know exactly where the bullet was fired from, but refuse to tell the public due to investigative reasons. What other information they have, we don’t know. It might be time to start sharing that information – it certainly seems like hiding it isn’t exactly helping…