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Iceland’s most famous case returns to court

13.09.2018 - 11:24
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 Mynd: Saga film/Mosaic Films - Youtube
Over four decades after it began, the world-famous ‘Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case’ is today back at the Supreme Court of Iceland. The case centred on the disappearance of 18-year-old Guðmundur Einarsson in January 1974 and of 32-year-old Geirfinnur Einarsson in November of the same year. Six people went to prison in February 1980 for their murders, but a huge number of questions remained unanswered.

Where were the bodies of the victims? Were the victims related (because they were not family, despite sharing a second name)? Why did more than ten months pass between the disappearances? Why were they murdered? Even the biggest question of all: were they actually murdered at all? 

  • Sævar Marinó Ciesielski was sentenced to 17 years for both murders.  
  • Kristján Viðar Viðarsson was sentenced to 16 years for both murders.  
  • Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson was sentenced to 13 years for the murder of Guðmundur.  
  • Guðjón Skarphéðinsson was sentenced to ten years for the murder of Geirfinnur.   
  • Erla Bolladóttir was sentenced to three years for providing false evidence in the Geirfinnur case. 
  • Albert Klahn Skaptason was sentenced to one year for destroying evidence in the Guðmundur case. 

The ruling did not prove to be the neat end to the case that police and judges had perhaps hoped for. Questions mounted about the methods used by police in their investigation and whether testimony from the suspects could be trusted.  

The mysterious case never went away and the BBC (among other international media) covered the case in 2014, on the 40th anniversary of the two disappearances. The coverage is long and detailed, but reads more like a crime novel than a news article. A Netflix documentary called Out of Thin Air provides another captivating glimpse of the case. 

After years of trying, the specially created re-trial committee in Iceland agreed that the case should be looked at again, in light of the fact that the six suspects spent incredibly long periods of time in isolation before the trial and that the confessions from Sævar and Kristján were obtained after they had been in isolation for roughly a whole year. The committee recognised that rules and procedures were regularly broken and agreed with claims that both police and the courts in the original case wilfully ignored testimony and evidence that did not confirm their stated timeline of events.  

The Supreme Court of Iceland is now re-hearing the case and testimonies will last all day today and tomorrow. Both the State Prosecutor and the lawyers for the defence are calling for the defendants to be acquitted and the defence is also calling for compensation and Guðjón's lawyer goes a step further, calling for a formal pardon from the State.

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Alexander Elliott
Fréttastofa RÚV