Out of Thin Air: Murder in Iceland Storyville


Out of Thin Air: Murder in Iceland

A Storyville documentary about the biggest-ever criminal investigation in Iceland's history, exploring one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice Europe has ever witnessed.


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Transcript


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This film contains some strong language

0:00:080:00:15

When I remember things...

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..it's not just some kind of mathematical machine in my head.

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It is contaminated in terms of facts.

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It's mixed with desires, with fears.

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Memory is such a fickle thing.

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Every Icelander knows about this case.

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It's the biggest criminal case of the last century.

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It was such torture, because I was this guilty person...

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..and I had never really connected with the actual memory

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of any of it happening.

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When I was growing up in Reykjavik, it was a small-town community.

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It felt almost like one family because everyone is related.

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In '74, there were probably 220,000 people.

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Iceland was a village, and you still knew most everyone.

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MUSIC PLAYS

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We didn't have so much experience of the outer world.

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It was a safe community.

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There was very little crime.

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It was a state of innocence, really.

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And authorities were something everybody trusted -

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and newspapers, they don't lie -

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and that's what people had here.

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They trusted that everything was the way it seemed.

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It was a time here in Iceland where there was a lot of changes,

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and I remember my parents' generation was quite nervous

0:04:560:05:00

of what on Earth was going on...

0:05:000:05:03

and I felt like I was with the crowd

0:05:030:05:06

that really had an understanding of life.

0:05:060:05:09

Hippies didn't respect rules, they didn't respect law.

0:05:180:05:23

People would be smoking hash and discussing politics,

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and I was soaking up everything they said like a sponge.

0:05:310:05:35

At these parties where everybody's passing the pipe, there he is -

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and I was wondering, "Who's this guy?"

0:05:530:05:55

And somebody said, "That's Saevar Ciesielski."

0:05:550:05:58

Saevar had a foreign look, most definitely.

0:06:000:06:03

He had this dark hair and he had these Slavic eyes -

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and the other thing about him was he was so mysterious.

0:06:080:06:13

There was always this mythology around Ciesielski.

0:06:130:06:17

The story was that he had this group of thugs around him.

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They came from broken homes, they had left school early.

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These kids were in trouble from, basically, the day they were born.

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LSD had entered the picture, and on one of these occasions,

0:06:370:06:40

this party is going on and we're just drinking Coke or something,

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and then all of a sudden,

0:06:450:06:46

I start feeling like I'm getting high

0:06:460:06:50

until I realised I am actually high on LSD.

0:06:500:06:54

So I started looking for a corner, somewhere where I could hide...

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..and then I stumble on something, and it's Saevar,

0:07:040:07:08

and then he tells me somebody must have put LSD in my drink.

0:07:080:07:13

So we were just going to hang on to each other through this.

0:07:130:07:17

We talked about our view of life, innermost pain,

0:07:190:07:24

everything there was to know about each other.

0:07:240:07:28

I felt like I had met one of the most incredible human beings ever...

0:07:320:07:38

..and he felt the same way, you know.

0:07:390:07:42

After that night, there was no other way to go forward but together.

0:07:460:07:52

The weather changes very quickly here in Iceland.

0:09:260:09:29

Sometimes you have a good sunny day in the morning,

0:09:300:09:33

but at noon you have heavy snow.

0:09:330:09:35

Some people don't understand how quickly the weather changes,

0:09:380:09:43

and get lost.

0:09:430:09:44

Gudmundur disappeared on Saturday night, 27th of January...

0:09:460:09:50

..and on Tuesday, there was a big call for rescue teams for a search.

0:09:520:09:59

There was about 200 people looking, and we searched until dark.

0:10:010:10:07

At that time, there was no thought about this was a crime,

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or something like that, because in those days it happened very often

0:10:170:10:22

that people got lost in the lava.

0:10:220:10:25

It was a nice summer. Good weather for weeks on end.

0:10:490:10:53

My family was very upset about my relationship with Saevar,

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because they had been told that he was, you know,

0:11:100:11:13

a dangerous guy because he was selling drugs...

0:11:130:11:16

..and so I was out of my relationship with my family

0:11:190:11:23

because of him,

0:11:230:11:24

and he did have a hold on me.

0:11:240:11:29

I felt privileged to be considered OK by him.

0:11:290:11:35

Saevar had this desire to commit some kind of a crime

0:11:370:11:41

that he would get away with

0:11:410:11:43

and leave authorities just tearing their hair out

0:11:430:11:46

cos they couldn't prove anything.

0:11:460:11:48

As I was working for the telephone company,

0:11:500:11:52

I came up with this embezzlement that we eventually committed.

0:11:520:11:56

What we had to do was tamper with the telephones

0:12:000:12:04

to make it sound like we were calling long-distance.

0:12:040:12:07

I called the office where I worked and I said, "I have a postal order,"

0:12:090:12:13

and so it gets processed,

0:12:130:12:16

and sent from there to the main post office downtown...

0:12:160:12:21

..and then I go to the post office

0:12:260:12:28

and I tell them I'm here to pick up the postal order.

0:12:280:12:31

I was so scared.

0:12:340:12:36

I felt like, "I'm going to get caught."

0:12:360:12:39

The amount that we embezzled was just under a million krona...

0:12:540:12:59

..and I became pretty confident that they would never find out.

0:13:040:13:09

"Boy, are they going to be pissed off!

0:13:090:13:11

"We got 'em!"

0:13:110:13:13

That whole chain of events

0:13:360:13:39

was so mysterious

0:13:390:13:41

that we immediately thought,

0:13:410:13:43

"This is a murder inquiry."

0:13:430:13:46

Witnesses remember that a man came into the cafe

0:13:580:14:02

and he asked to use the phone.

0:14:020:14:04

This was about the same time as Geirfinnur got his phone call.

0:14:050:14:10

PHONE RINGS

0:14:100:14:11

Hallo?

0:14:110:14:13

HE SPEAKS IN ICELANDIC

0:14:130:14:17

Ja?

0:14:220:14:23

He was a good man, had no enemies.

0:15:350:15:39

It was unlike him to disappear like that.

0:15:390:15:43

There were searching teams all over.

0:15:470:15:50

The dogs, the divers in the harbour, everything was done.

0:15:500:15:54

An artist in Keflavik came up with an idea to make a clay statue

0:16:050:16:10

of the suspect, and the reaction was overwhelming in the whole society.

0:16:100:16:16

No body was found, so we were totally at a blank end.

0:16:280:16:32

Very early on,

0:16:420:16:44

I got the sense that something going on here

0:16:440:16:46

that's not going to end well.

0:16:460:16:48

Ah... And it turned out, didn't end well.

0:16:500:16:54

Our daughter was born here in Reykjavik

0:17:090:17:14

on the 24th of September, 1975.

0:17:140:17:17

Saevar was present at the birth, and very excited.

0:17:180:17:23

After she was born,

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I had one focus in my life,

0:17:260:17:29

and that was to be a perfect mother for this child.

0:17:290:17:33

I would sacrifice anything -

0:17:330:17:36

and I was really upset with Saevar's way of life at that point.

0:17:360:17:41

I had told him, "I don't want this any more.

0:17:410:17:44

"I just want to have a normal life in the daylight, nothing to hide."

0:17:440:17:50

I was 20 years old, and I was so naive.

0:17:510:17:56

Saevar and his friends were known to the police.

0:17:580:18:01

They were part of some kind of a criminal underworld.

0:18:010:18:08

Most of them had been in prison for petty crime, thievery.

0:18:090:18:15

They were violent.

0:18:150:18:17

This was a nasty group of kids.

0:18:200:18:22

When they came to arrest me,

0:18:330:18:36

they surrounded this big building as if they were arresting terrorists.

0:18:360:18:41

All I could do was call my sister.

0:18:430:18:46

So she came around and took the baby.

0:18:460:18:50

I remember getting in a car.

0:18:530:18:55

Glimpses where I'm just really scared...

0:19:000:19:04

and I remember trying to tell them

0:19:040:19:06

I can't be here for a long time, because the baby needs me.

0:19:060:19:09

They took me to this prison...

0:19:120:19:15

..and then I was locked up in this cell.

0:19:170:19:20

The next day, they spoke to me

0:19:310:19:33

and explained that I was now going to be held in custody for 30 days

0:19:330:19:39

on suspicion of the embezzlement.

0:19:390:19:41

I just broke down and couldn't handle that reality.

0:19:450:19:49

What about the baby?

0:19:490:19:50

And then they just sent me back to my cell

0:19:560:19:59

and then left me there for six days and nights.

0:19:590:20:02

During the questioning about the embezzlement,

0:20:090:20:13

they told me that Saevar had been very clear

0:20:130:20:16

that I had been entirely on my own doing that,

0:20:160:20:21

and they told me, "You need to realise that Saevar

0:20:210:20:25

"is a really rotten human being to the core.

0:20:250:20:29

"There is no redemption for him."

0:20:300:20:33

I was really shocked

0:20:350:20:37

that Saevar would betray me that way,

0:20:370:20:39

but he had betrayed me in terms of other girls,

0:20:390:20:43

so it was easier for me to believe them.

0:20:430:20:47

Eventually, I decided to tell them everything,

0:20:500:20:54

not just the embezzlement,

0:20:540:20:57

but anything illegal that I was aware of.

0:20:570:21:00

And what a relief!

0:21:020:21:05

It was the end of an era and a beginning of a life.

0:21:060:21:11

These guys had actually helped me.

0:21:130:21:16

And then one of them says, "Oh, by the way,

0:21:270:21:30

"one other thing we want to ask you.

0:21:300:21:32

"Do you know a guy by the name of Gudmundur Einarsson?"

0:21:320:21:35

And then he shows me a photograph.

0:21:350:21:38

I said, "Yeah, I've seen this guy.

0:21:390:21:41

"Years ago at my girlfriend's house, she had a school party.

0:21:410:21:45

"I remember him because he was a really nice guy" -

0:21:450:21:48

and that was it.

0:21:480:21:50

"Are you sure?"

0:21:500:21:51

"Yeah. Yeah. I don't remember ever seeing him after that."

0:21:510:21:54

THEY SPEAK IN ICELANDIC

0:21:540:21:55

During that case, I think it was Erla who started to tell them

0:22:060:22:10

about things that had happened the year before.

0:22:100:22:15

This was a long questioning.

0:22:160:22:18

It was hours -

0:22:180:22:20

and during that whole process they got closer and closer

0:22:200:22:24

to talking about the weekend when this boy disappeared.

0:22:240:22:29

Somehow it got down to me telling them that I had had a nightmare.

0:22:290:22:34

The weather that night was crazy.

0:22:400:22:43

It would just howl like a wolf.

0:22:450:22:48

In an old house like that, you feel like the house is moving.

0:23:050:23:11

Then I hear some whispering.

0:23:180:23:20

There were people outside my window...

0:23:230:23:25

..and these were violent people..

0:23:270:23:30

and I became aware that they're whispering,

0:23:300:23:33

wondering if I'm awake or not.

0:23:330:23:35

I feel like I'm in this corner - I can't go anywhere...

0:23:360:23:40

..and then I wake up.

0:23:410:23:44

After all this questioning,

0:23:560:23:59

the chief of the investigation leans over and he says,

0:23:590:24:04

"Something terrible happened that night in that apartment,

0:24:040:24:08

"you witnessed it,

0:24:080:24:10

"and you cannot recall because of the trauma it caused you.

0:24:100:24:14

"So what we want to do now is you go back to your cell

0:24:140:24:18

"and you try as much as you can to remember,

0:24:180:24:21

"and then we will be back and talk about it some more."

0:24:210:24:24

I remember lying there thinking about that night.

0:24:450:24:48

My head was full of pictures...

0:24:500:24:53

..and I wondered,

0:24:550:24:57

"Was that nightmare maybe something that really did happen?"

0:24:570:25:01

That I woke up...

0:25:050:25:08

..got out of bed...

0:25:110:25:14

..and saw them.

0:25:160:25:18

I saw Saevar and Kristjan and a third person I didn't recognise,

0:25:240:25:29

carrying something heavy.

0:25:290:25:30

I didn't see what was in the sheet, but I was sure that it was a body.

0:25:310:25:35

I couldn't move.

0:25:400:25:41

I was cold, but at the same time I felt like I was sweating.

0:25:410:25:46

Later, Saevar took me by the arms and put me to bed.

0:25:470:25:51

I said I was going to deny everything.

0:25:520:25:55

Gudmundur disappears in January '74,

0:26:040:26:08

and she made this confession December '75.

0:26:080:26:11

So it's already two years.

0:26:110:26:13

We searched the flat but there was not much evidence on the scene.

0:26:150:26:20

No DNA, nothing of the sort.

0:26:210:26:24

PHONE RINGS

0:26:270:26:29

Hallo?

0:26:330:26:36

After I was released, they called me and they tell me,

0:26:360:26:40

"We have questioned Saevar..."

0:26:400:26:42

Hm.

0:26:420:26:43

"..and we just want to let you know

0:26:450:26:47

"that his testimony is in line with yours in detail."

0:26:470:26:52

December 22, 1975.

0:26:590:27:02

Saevar said that Gudmundur, Kristjan and Tryggvi

0:27:020:27:05

had all come to the apartment during the night in late January 1974.

0:27:050:27:11

An argument had ended in Gudmundur's death.

0:27:110:27:14

Saevar had called his friend Albert

0:27:160:27:18

and asked him to come in his father's car.

0:27:180:27:22

It was half past 11 in the evening.

0:27:220:27:25

Kristjan called and he said, "They are accusing me of murder."

0:27:250:27:29

Kristjan then met the other guys, and something had happened.

0:27:310:27:35

I can't clearly remember the events of that night...

0:27:370:27:40

..I was under the influence of alcohol...

0:27:410:27:44

but all I'm going to tell you, I think I remember with certainty.

0:27:440:27:47

There was a fight in the apartment, and I'm sure I took no part in it.

0:27:490:27:53

There was some disagreement,

0:27:550:27:57

I'm sure between Kristjan and the man with no name.

0:27:570:28:01

It started by them cursing each other, but ended in a fight.

0:28:030:28:08

Then the man hit me and I think I hit him, and he fell to the floor.

0:28:080:28:13

Then I saw Saevar kick him in the head.

0:28:130:28:16

The next thing I remember is that Albert's car was at the house.

0:28:250:28:28

Saevar, Kristjan and Tryggvi approached the vehicle.

0:28:280:28:32

I saw that all three carried something that look like a bag.

0:28:330:28:37

Saevar told me where to drive.

0:28:380:28:41

On the way back, Saevar and I discussed what was in the bag.

0:28:440:28:48

Saevar then clearly told me that it contained a corpse.

0:28:480:28:52

The police had told me that when they were trying

0:28:560:28:59

to figure out what had been done with the body,

0:28:590:29:02

they had to cut it all up into pieces

0:29:020:29:05

and carry it out in plastic bags.

0:29:050:29:07

My mind was getting really worked,

0:29:090:29:11

and it felt to me like all this had

0:29:110:29:13

been going on with me completely unaware,

0:29:130:29:16

and that these guys had been butchers of people.

0:29:160:29:19

I was picturing him when he's holding the baby...

0:29:230:29:28

The smile was just an act, or...

0:29:280:29:31

Everything.

0:29:310:29:33

Everything becomes questionable.

0:29:330:29:36

The next thing that happened is in early 1976.

0:30:160:30:20

Police is still investigating Saevar and Erla about Gudmundur.

0:30:200:30:25

They mention also Geirfinnur.

0:30:250:30:27

The police always stayed in touch with me...

0:30:330:30:35

..and with my social situation where I was so isolated,

0:30:370:30:42

these were the only friends in the world that I had,

0:30:420:30:46

and they became very important to me...

0:30:460:30:49

and at some point,

0:30:490:30:50

the talk starts getting to the disappearance of Geirfinnur...

0:30:500:30:54

..and he asked me point blank,

0:30:550:30:58

"Do you think that Saevar knows something

0:30:580:31:01

"about what happened to him?"

0:31:010:31:02

The thing about Geirfinnur was that he was never found,

0:31:100:31:13

so it was suspicious from the start.

0:31:130:31:16

Then they started some rumours and some conspiracy theories.

0:31:180:31:22

There was all these rumours going on

0:31:230:31:25

that there might have been connection

0:31:250:31:27

between the disappearance of Geirfinnur

0:31:270:31:29

and people running a particular discotheque.

0:31:290:31:33

There was always a lot of smuggled alcohol around then.

0:31:330:31:36

The rumour was that some of the clubs

0:31:360:31:39

would get their alcohol from that source...

0:31:390:31:42

..so, maybe this guy Geirfinnur got caught up in smuggling.

0:31:440:31:49

We drove from the city and headed to Keflavik.

0:31:540:31:58

Saevar held my hand the whole time, like he didn't want to let go.

0:31:590:32:04

The car stopped close to the sea.

0:32:070:32:09

Basically, Geirfinnur had been hired to pick up big plastic containers

0:32:220:32:27

of alcohol that were being smuggled into the country...

0:32:270:32:30

..and then there had been a quarrel,

0:32:390:32:42

and he had died because of all of that.

0:32:420:32:45

For the village of Iceland,

0:33:130:33:15

this was - you know, this was shocking.

0:33:150:33:17

It was the biggest story to hit the population for years and years.

0:33:180:33:24

The perception was that this was organised crime

0:33:320:33:36

tied in with people in the highest places.

0:33:360:33:39

The gossip was that the Progressive Party

0:33:390:33:43

had been involved in all the smuggling.

0:33:430:33:47

And the chairman of the Progressive Party was the Minister of Justice,

0:33:470:33:51

so this was a big scandal.

0:33:510:33:53

It was really the beginning of...

0:34:160:34:17

I would call it public hysteria.

0:34:170:34:20

We had a killer gang amongst us, two times murderers.

0:34:200:34:26

Where was the police?

0:34:260:34:28

How could this have happened?

0:34:280:34:30

And of course in this little close-knit community,

0:34:300:34:33

everyone was talking about this.

0:34:330:34:35

What's really going on in this kind of society?

0:34:350:34:42

In a way, we lost our innocence, we lost our security -

0:34:420:34:47

and all of a sudden the big bad world was knocking at our door.

0:34:470:34:52

Then in early May '76, all of the sudden these four men are released.

0:35:000:35:05

Turns out that the investigation produced nothing.

0:35:050:35:10

Saevar and the gang, they made up this story.

0:35:100:35:13

It took the police three months to figure out that this was..

0:35:130:35:16

..all the time was a total lie.

0:35:170:35:20

During the summer of 1976,

0:35:250:35:28

I was a detective with that same force investigating these two cases.

0:35:280:35:32

What I saw is that the police were under incredible pressure

0:35:340:35:37

to solve these cases.

0:35:370:35:39

The atmosphere was tense, like a panic.

0:35:490:35:54

The message that was being communicated

0:35:540:35:57

was all of these people,

0:35:570:35:59

they're playing games, they're not cooperating.

0:35:590:36:03

The police was in a very, very bad situation.

0:36:030:36:06

Even after they have confessed killing Geirfinnur,

0:36:060:36:09

they are still changing their story about how he died...

0:36:090:36:12

..and the police didn't have the bodies.

0:36:180:36:21

They had only the statements from these people.

0:36:210:36:25

HE SHOUTS IN ICELANDIC

0:36:270:36:29

Saevar put the rifle in my hands and stood next to me.

0:36:370:36:41

I was so close to the guy that I could see his face.

0:36:420:36:45

He seemed to realise what was happening to him,

0:36:460:36:49

and there was panic in his eyes.

0:36:490:36:52

The investigation had been going on for a long time.

0:37:050:37:09

It didn't seem to be going very well.

0:37:090:37:13

The police had not experienced a case like that.

0:37:150:37:19

I mean, two murders.

0:37:190:37:21

The public was demanding

0:37:230:37:25

that the police would come up with a solution.

0:37:250:37:28

Find the guilty persons.

0:37:280:37:30

The minister of justice is getting anxious.

0:37:300:37:33

He's responsible for the whole thing,

0:37:330:37:35

so he uses his influence, and soon after, this guy Schutz shows up.

0:37:350:37:43

He was head of the West German security police.

0:37:430:37:47

We thought, "Well, this seems to be, you know, the real McCoy."

0:37:480:37:53

Karl Schutz sets up a task force of seven police officers,

0:37:550:37:59

and there were three interpreters, and the investigating judge -

0:37:590:38:03

and he was quite a hard task master.

0:38:030:38:06

The focus was very much, "We've got to find the bodies."

0:38:080:38:12

There were an enormous amount of searches

0:38:130:38:16

for Gudmundur and Geirfinnur's bodies.

0:38:160:38:19

Karl Schutz spent months studying the case

0:38:250:38:29

and trying to understand it...

0:38:290:38:31

..and he was also interviewing the suspects through an interpreter.

0:38:370:38:42

The focus was on who was the driver

0:38:440:38:46

who took the gang to meet Geirfinnur.

0:38:460:38:50

They had to find somebody who could have driven the car,

0:38:510:38:56

and somebody they all knew,

0:38:560:38:59

and there was I.

0:38:590:39:02

Gudjon was different to the others.

0:39:140:39:17

He was older.

0:39:170:39:18

He was a much more educated man and he came from a good background,

0:39:180:39:24

and he said he had been there.

0:39:240:39:28

It was a confession that was used to convict the others.

0:39:290:39:34

The three of us fought with Geirfinnur

0:39:460:39:48

and that resulted in his death.

0:39:480:39:50

I don't remember the body being put in the car,

0:39:550:39:57

but on the way back to Reykjavik,

0:39:570:40:00

I remember Saevar saying that I was an accomplice to murder.

0:40:000:40:03

We transferred the body to Reykjavik -

0:40:090:40:12

of course took it in other cars

0:40:120:40:14

so it would never be found.

0:40:140:40:16

Erla waited while we carried the body into the Land Rover

0:40:310:40:34

and put him in the back.

0:40:340:40:36

We then drove all the way to Raudholar.

0:40:400:40:43

We dug a hole into the red gravel just big enough to fit the body.

0:40:470:40:51

State radio calls up the Prime Minister to get his reaction.

0:41:460:41:51

He says the nightmare is over.

0:41:510:41:53

The public just wanted our blood.

0:42:590:43:02

There was so much pressure on authorities to convict all of us

0:43:030:43:08

and get us really good,

0:43:080:43:10

and there was no-one that actually did not believe all this.

0:43:100:43:15

Now the accused had the opportunity to present their cases,

0:43:470:43:51

and they did. What they said was that they were innocent.

0:43:510:43:56

There was a lack of evidence,

0:43:570:44:00

there were no bodies,

0:44:000:44:02

and the whole case was nonsense -

0:44:020:44:05

but even though they were withdrawing their testimonies,

0:44:050:44:11

people believed they had killed those two men, end of story.

0:44:110:44:16

I was found guilty of the embezzlement, of course,

0:44:180:44:21

and perjury, that I had intentionally framed innocent people

0:44:210:44:27

for something they didn't do.

0:44:270:44:29

In the end, the police arrested the right people in both cases.

0:45:280:45:33

It was always with the feeling

0:45:400:45:42

that he was some sort of a Satanic criminal,

0:45:420:45:45

and I was supposed to have been

0:45:450:45:48

this submissive but monstrous person, as well.

0:45:480:45:51

The image that we were given

0:45:530:45:56

was very much like Charles Manson and his girlfriend.

0:45:560:46:00

The Minister of Justice thanks Karl Schutz

0:46:060:46:09

"for unburdening the Icelandic nation of a nightmare."

0:46:090:46:13

Obviously, the Minister of Justice was assuming, case solved.

0:46:130:46:18

What he didn't say - "This is the beginning of an endless nightmare,

0:46:180:46:23

"and this nightmare is still going to this day."

0:46:230:46:25

I don't think I had a clear thought for years through all this.

0:46:330:46:37

I felt like I was drowning in so much confusion and so much guilt.

0:46:380:46:45

Your thoughts can take over, and your mind becomes a monster.

0:46:480:46:53

"What of this am I remembering...

0:46:570:46:58

"..and what is missing that I'm not remembering?"

0:47:000:47:03

Memory is such a fickle thing.

0:47:100:47:11

The day I got out,

0:47:260:47:28

all I could think was, "My daughter's on the other side."

0:47:280:47:30

Man, I had prepared for days, you know, to look right,

0:47:320:47:36

and, you know, have the right things to say...

0:47:360:47:39

..and she had this bouquet of flowers, and...

0:47:410:47:47

..it was the happiest day ever.

0:47:480:47:51

When I was released, I was basically two things -

0:47:560:48:02

I provoked curiosity, and I was despised...

0:48:020:48:05

..and people felt free to express it,

0:48:060:48:10

like spitting in my face.

0:48:100:48:13

The first time Saevar and I ever talked about what had happened...

0:48:190:48:24

..it was literally that kind of moment, like,

0:48:260:48:30

"What the hell happened to us?"

0:48:300:48:32

You know, "What was it all about?"

0:48:320:48:34

He went through years of anger...

0:48:400:48:45

blaming me for everything...

0:48:450:48:48

..and I went through incredible guilt

0:48:500:48:54

for having testified against him.

0:48:540:48:58

There were so many years where we just couldn't...

0:49:020:49:06

connect, and it had so much to do with, you know...

0:49:060:49:10

Our relationship had been invaded by such dark powers.

0:49:100:49:16

It was very difficult to be Saevar Ciesielski here in Iceland,

0:49:320:49:36

in this small society.

0:49:360:49:38

He somehow became the evil

0:49:400:49:43

for, like, I don't know, 90% of the Icelanders.

0:49:430:49:46

Just evil incarnate.

0:49:460:49:49

When Saevar came out of prison,

0:49:530:49:57

he met a girl, and they lived together,

0:49:570:50:00

and they had two children,

0:50:000:50:02

and they even moved to America.

0:50:020:50:04

We tried to move to Colorado, and just start a new, you know,

0:50:060:50:11

family there, away from all this drama,

0:50:110:50:15

but he really could not let it go.

0:50:150:50:17

He wanted to clear his name.

0:50:170:50:20

We decided to go back to Iceland.

0:50:220:50:25

Then he started to...

0:50:250:50:27

..you know, really try to fight this case.

0:50:280:50:31

I collected the information of documents,

0:51:290:51:31

trying to understand what had happened,

0:51:310:51:35

the evidence of the case itself.

0:51:350:51:39

I saw the flaws.

0:51:390:51:41

They were so obvious.

0:51:410:51:43

Usually, in murder cases,

0:51:450:51:47

you have the place where the crime was committed,

0:51:470:51:50

you have bodies, you have motives.

0:51:500:51:54

They had no such traditional evidence at all.

0:51:560:52:00

They only had the statements made by the accused themselves.

0:52:010:52:06

My legal arguments were quite tight...

0:52:160:52:19

..and the facts were all in favour of reopening the case.

0:52:200:52:24

I presented all this to the Supreme Court.

0:52:250:52:28

APPLAUSE

0:53:380:53:40

He had a lot of support already at that time.

0:53:400:53:44

People were obviously not believing

0:53:440:53:47

in the correctness of the conclusions of the courts.

0:53:470:53:50

I saw a lot of Saevar after he lost his battle.

0:54:110:54:16

He had put his entire existence into this,

0:54:160:54:19

and, you know, where was he going to go from there?

0:54:190:54:23

I mean, in his world, there were no options.

0:54:250:54:27

I always knew there was something really dark and bad

0:54:290:54:34

that happened to my father.

0:54:340:54:36

Years and years of trying to fight the system,

0:54:370:54:41

and that, in the end, just tore him apart completely.

0:54:410:54:44

Many people knew Saevar only from the streets.

0:54:450:54:49

He was a heavy drinker, a broken man.

0:54:490:54:52

He was a famous man by that time,

0:54:550:54:58

and people were kind of mellowing towards him.

0:54:580:55:01

He still had this charm.

0:55:030:55:06

He might be drunk and drugged,

0:55:060:55:08

but he always, or usually, kept his charm.

0:55:080:55:12

But of course, it was very, very sad.

0:55:120:55:15

He was really emotional in the end about this whole thing,

0:55:510:55:55

and it was pretty hard to watch that happen,

0:55:550:55:59

you know, in slow motion in front of you.

0:55:590:56:02

Everybody had followed Saevar's journey...

0:56:100:56:13

..because he fought many battles to prove his innocence,

0:56:140:56:19

with no results.

0:56:190:56:21

His funeral was held at the cathedral downtown,

0:56:250:56:28

and it was totally packed,

0:56:280:56:31

from the street people to politicians.

0:56:310:56:34

When he died, it hit the news.

0:56:450:56:48

His relatives, Erla, and his children,

0:56:480:56:52

came forward and talked about this case, talked about his battles,

0:56:520:56:58

and pushed that this case should be reopened and reinvestigated.

0:56:580:57:06

That's when I thought maybe I should do something about it.

0:57:090:57:13

As a reporter, when you look at this case,

0:57:150:57:18

you're warned that you might be stepping into a black hole -

0:57:180:57:23

and once you look into it, you just can't stop.

0:57:230:57:28

I had filmed a couple of interviews with people related to this case,

0:57:310:57:36

and then I decided to speak to Tryggvi's widow.

0:57:360:57:40

My mum called me and said that there was this woman from the news

0:57:410:57:46

coming to interview her regarding my dad's case,

0:57:460:57:51

and asked if I wanted to come and be with them.

0:57:510:57:54

There was something in my mind that said that this could be useful,

0:57:580:58:04

because I didn't want my dad to be remembered as a murderer.

0:58:040:58:11

When we arrived, his daughter was there, Kristin,

0:58:180:58:21

and she said, "I have something you might be interested in.

0:58:210:58:26

"I have my father's diaries from when he was in prison."

0:58:260:58:31

I just wanted her to see them,

0:58:310:58:34

and I didn't think it would have any more meaning than that.

0:58:340:58:37

I just wanted her to see something from my dad.

0:58:370:58:41

A piece of him.

0:58:410:58:43

When she showed me the diaries, there was a long title.

0:58:450:58:50

It read,

0:58:510:58:52

"This is the diary of an innocent man

0:58:520:58:56

"who is accused of a very serious thing in a very serious case."

0:58:560:59:02

"April 25th, 1977.

0:59:030:59:06

"So, now, I have been here continuously for 16 months

0:59:060:59:10

"and 11 days in custody,

0:59:100:59:12

"including 14 months in isolation, totally alone.

0:59:120:59:16

"I shall hold fast.

0:59:200:59:22

"I don't have to be afraid,

0:59:220:59:24

"as I'm innocent, and justice always prevails in the end."

0:59:240:59:28

I realised at that point...

0:59:340:59:36

..we had something new.

0:59:370:59:40

We had something to report on.

0:59:400:59:43

So, I thought we would have to get a specialist's opinion.

0:59:430:59:47

Gisli Gudjonsson is a world-leading expert on false confessions.

0:59:510:59:57

An Icelander who has practised in the UK for 40 years.

0:59:571:00:02

I was thinking, the diaries, they need to go to Gisli.

1:00:041:00:07

He is the person.

1:00:071:00:09

If anybody should see them, it's got to be him...

1:00:091:00:12

..but I was so nervous.

1:00:131:00:15

I was afraid that Gisli would say that...

1:00:151:00:19

..even though he wrote that he was an innocent man, maybe he wasn't.

1:00:211:00:25

I could not say from reading the diaries,

1:00:311:00:33

this man is innocent or not, because it's not for me to say -

1:00:331:00:37

but he was stating his innocence and explaining why,

1:00:371:00:42

and that suggested that this was new material,

1:00:421:00:45

and I thought the case should be reviewed again.

1:00:451:00:48

The key implication was that perhaps the confessions were not reliable.

1:00:511:00:57

I was so relieved.

1:01:021:01:05

That was the biggest scoop.

1:01:051:01:09

My story was broadcast, and it got massive attention -

1:01:201:01:25

and I think in the same week,

1:01:251:01:28

the ministry announced that the investigation committee

1:01:281:01:32

would be established.

1:01:321:01:34

I decided to put down a commission

1:01:341:01:37

to look into the investigation, and the methods used

1:01:371:01:42

in the investigation,

1:01:421:01:44

and how these confessions were obtained.

1:01:441:01:48

We went through thousands of pages.

1:01:581:02:02

Police reports, handwritten notes from the police,

1:02:021:02:05

reports taken from prison guards.

1:02:051:02:08

It was quite obvious when we looked into the prison diaries

1:02:101:02:14

that many records were missing.

1:02:141:02:16

The convicted had a lack of access to their attorneys,

1:02:171:02:21

and they were interrogated many, many times more often

1:02:211:02:25

than the police reports indicated.

1:02:251:02:28

Saevar, for example -

1:02:301:02:32

he had been interrogated 180 times for 340 hours.

1:02:321:02:38

He had been in solitary for 615 days.

1:02:391:02:44

Erla was interrogated 105 times.

1:02:471:02:51

Tryggvi was kept in solitary for the longest -

1:02:571:03:02

for 655 days total.

1:03:021:03:04

It became very clear to us that many things were going seriously wrong

1:03:061:03:12

under the investigation.

1:03:121:03:13

The key findings of the commission

1:03:371:03:40

were that these confessions

1:03:401:03:45

were in all likelihood fabricated.

1:03:451:03:48

People had been admitting to something they didn't do.

1:03:481:03:53

I have never worked on a case, anywhere in the world,

1:03:531:03:57

where there'd been so many interrogations,

1:03:571:04:00

and such lengthy interrogations.

1:04:001:04:02

This is quite exceptional.

1:04:021:04:03

This is the only case I know of where so many individuals

1:04:071:04:11

have had their memories distorted to this extent.

1:04:111:04:14

Five of the six had what I call a memory distrust syndrome.

1:04:171:04:22

The person begins to think,

1:04:241:04:26

"Maybe something did happen, and I didn't remember it."

1:04:261:04:29

When I read the report,

1:04:321:04:35

I was really faced with how incredibly unreliable memory is.

1:04:351:04:39

"What of this am I remembering..."

1:04:441:04:47

"..and what is missing that I'm not remembering?

1:04:571:05:00

This whole thing starts with a confession...

1:05:031:05:06

..where Erla was under no pressure at all.

1:05:071:05:10

It's she that tells them that they were involved

1:05:121:05:16

in the killing of Gudmundur.

1:05:161:05:18

The police had been explaining

1:05:201:05:22

that often when people experience something

1:05:221:05:25

that is too much for them to handle,

1:05:251:05:27

they bury it somewhere, and they cannot recall it...

1:05:271:05:32

and they said,

1:05:321:05:33

"We know how to help you remember if you did witness something terrible."

1:05:331:05:38

They formed a crack in my mind...

1:05:581:06:01

..and then they just got in there, and worked on it...

1:06:021:06:06

..and that was my horror -

1:06:231:06:24

to face the possibility

1:06:241:06:27

that Saevar would have resorted to cutting up a human being.

1:06:271:06:32

Through all this exchange, this story came out.

1:06:371:06:42

Almost like a genie, you know, or something -

1:06:421:06:45

and for a long time, I asked myself, "Who made that story?"

1:06:451:06:51

Did I make it, or...? How did that, you know, transpire?

1:06:511:06:57

At the time that Erla was questioned...

1:06:571:07:00

..in the Gudmundur case, she was a very vulnerable person.

1:07:011:07:06

It is likely that the police officers

1:07:061:07:10

had, in their own mind, a scenario

1:07:101:07:12

of what had happened to Gudmundur Einarsson,

1:07:121:07:16

and over time,

1:07:161:07:18

Erla began to believe that maybe Saevar and his friends

1:07:181:07:22

HAD been involved.

1:07:221:07:24

Once she began to express doubt in her own memory,

1:07:261:07:30

the police went for it.

1:07:301:07:32

DOORBELL RINGS

1:07:331:07:34

Now, the police were going to come after me

1:07:391:07:42

about what happened to Geirfinnur.

1:07:421:07:44

In one version, Saevar had hit him with a wooden log,

1:07:511:07:54

another time, he had kicked him in the head,

1:07:541:07:57

and Kristjan had done it, and it was all over the place...

1:07:571:08:01

..and then they had a warrant for my arrest.

1:08:091:08:12

At that point, I felt so guilty...

1:08:171:08:21

..and I was so responsible for ruining so many people's lives...

1:08:221:08:27

..that...it was not too much for me to take it on me.

1:08:281:08:35

GUNSHOT

1:08:351:08:36

The police were faced with a huge dilemma.

1:09:011:09:06

They had confessions, but they had no substance.

1:09:061:09:10

There was nothing tangible that came out of those interrogations...

1:09:101:09:14

..and the country wanted an answer.

1:09:151:09:19

What happened to Geirfinnur Einarsson?

1:09:191:09:22

To come to Sidumuli Prison,

1:09:331:09:37

when the cases of Gudmundur and Geirfinnur started...

1:09:371:09:41

it was another world.

1:09:411:09:43

The atmosphere in Sidumuli

1:09:471:09:49

was very intense.

1:09:491:09:52

The attitude amongst the guards and the policemen

1:09:531:09:59

was that these people were murderers.

1:09:591:10:03

The more pressure, the sooner they would confess.

1:10:031:10:06

The guards despised Saevar.

1:10:101:10:13

They called him "the rat."

1:10:131:10:16

The one thing to break him down was to rid him of sleep.

1:10:191:10:25

There was a light, day and night, 24 hours,

1:10:271:10:31

and during the night,

1:10:311:10:34

they would knock on the wall where he was inside.

1:10:341:10:39

That was to keep him awake.

1:10:411:10:45

WATER RUNS

1:10:451:10:47

Saevar was afraid of water.

1:10:481:10:52

They took him, and immersed his head into the water...

1:10:541:11:01

..and said they would drown him if he didn't confess.

1:11:041:11:10

Those guards who did it, they enjoyed it and were proud of it,

1:11:111:11:16

and laughed about it, of "drowning the rat."

1:11:161:11:19

This was a heavy-handed investigation.

1:11:271:11:30

This was heavy.

1:11:301:11:31

Albert Klahn went berserk in custody after a few days.

1:11:311:11:34

Tryggvi Runar had to be, after four nights of sleeplessness,

1:11:351:11:38

sedated by an injection.

1:11:381:11:40

Kristjan Vidar tried to kill himself twice.

1:11:421:11:45

It's breaking down that core - your capacity to really say,

1:11:471:11:53

"I know that did not happen."

1:11:531:11:55

Once that's broken down, you are very vulnerable.

1:11:561:12:00

"There was nothing but waiting.

1:12:041:12:06

"Waiting for the next interrogation, wondering what I would say.

1:12:071:12:10

"In the cell, I could do nothing but think.

1:12:121:12:14

"I grew into the walls.

1:12:161:12:18

"I could not feel my body - I was just head."

1:12:201:12:24

There is a picture which really was accepted by the court,

1:12:331:12:37

where Kristjan Vidar is kind of enacting

1:12:371:12:39

what happened to Geirfinnur.

1:12:391:12:42

Here is what happened - there's a photograph of it,

1:12:441:12:47

exactly how it took place.

1:12:471:12:49

Once you have enacted something, you're showing how you did it,

1:12:531:12:56

it may have a damaging effect

1:12:561:12:59

in the sense that it may reinforce that memory.

1:12:591:13:03

You begin to think it did actually happen like that.

1:13:041:13:08

HE SPEAKS IN ICELANDIC

1:13:361:13:37

It was four times a day that they brought pills that I had to take,

1:13:391:13:43

and all of them had one thing in common,

1:13:431:13:45

and that was, they were tranquillising.

1:13:451:13:47

I wasn't allowed to go outside.

1:13:541:13:56

It was complete isolation.

1:13:581:14:01

Very soon, you shrink down to this helpless baby.

1:14:031:14:08

Your mentality and your intelligence...

1:14:091:14:11

everything just shrinks,

1:14:111:14:13

and you're in this abstract world.

1:14:131:14:16

You know, I really just...needed to die...

1:14:271:14:32

but this one...

1:14:321:14:34

one tie, with the baby...

1:14:341:14:37

was the thing that didn't allow me to do that.

1:14:371:14:39

When I thought about her...

1:14:431:14:46

I couldn't picture her.

1:14:461:14:49

I couldn't see her face...

1:14:491:14:52

and then I knew I was going crazy,

1:14:521:14:54

and I even wondered, "Did I ever even have a baby?

1:14:541:14:59

"Is that also my imagination?

1:14:591:15:02

"Because I could swear that I feel that I do...

1:15:021:15:06

"but no picture is coming."

1:15:061:15:08

The criminal police told her that in order to get out,

1:15:271:15:33

she had to tell everything,

1:15:331:15:36

and therefore, she told and told and told -

1:15:361:15:40

much too much.

1:15:401:15:42

This case is probably the first one that the police feels pressure

1:15:431:15:49

from the press and from the public.

1:15:491:15:52

They had this fact that these people were missing, they had...

1:15:531:15:57

confessions, if you like,

1:15:571:15:59

from some of the people that had been involved in killing them...

1:15:591:16:03

..but they always were changing the stories of who did what.

1:16:041:16:09

HE SPEAKS IN GERMAN

1:16:101:16:12

Karl Schutz is brought in by the Minister of Justice

1:16:181:16:21

to harmonise the confessions,

1:16:211:16:24

and to make them credible in terms of the court of law.

1:16:241:16:27

He is very much in charge, driving the investigation.

1:16:291:16:34

Everything was focused on proving that they were guilty.

1:16:361:16:40

Karl Schutz taught the Icelandic detectives

1:16:411:16:44

a new way of interrogating.

1:16:441:16:46

Basically, it involved coming at suspects

1:16:481:16:52

from many different directions.

1:16:521:16:54

They would jump from one time to another

1:16:561:16:58

to trick them into revealing the truth.

1:16:581:17:01

The police suggest things -

1:17:021:17:04

"Could it have been this way, could it have been that way?"

1:17:041:17:08

and the person persuades himself perhaps he was present,

1:17:081:17:12

and begins to believe it.

1:17:121:17:14

When Gudjon Skarphedinsson was arrested,

1:17:171:17:20

his statements...

1:17:201:17:22

..were very important in closing up the case.

1:17:231:17:28

It's the same...

1:17:501:17:51

..routine, again and again.

1:17:521:17:55

Did we bury him somewhere or throw him in the ocean?

1:17:551:17:59

Where was the car?

1:17:591:18:01

Who else was involved?

1:18:011:18:03

What was it all about?

1:18:031:18:04

You get tired,

1:18:061:18:07

and you don't know whether you're dreaming or remembering things.

1:18:071:18:14

I got completely confused.

1:18:161:18:18

It came like clips from a movie into your mind.

1:18:191:18:25

In the end, you feel you have been there...

1:18:441:18:47

..that this has really happened.

1:18:481:18:51

You wonder, "What else has happened that I don't remember?"

1:18:561:19:00

You can't trust your own mind.

1:19:031:19:06

It's sort of like somebody pulls the carpet from underneath,

1:19:081:19:11

and you're standing in thin air,

1:19:111:19:14

and you don't know where the ground is.

1:19:141:19:17

From the beginning, there was presumption of guilt.

1:19:291:19:32

Nobody seemed to consider the possibility

1:19:331:19:36

that these people might be innocent,

1:19:361:19:38

and that they did not know what had happened

1:19:381:19:41

to Gudmundur and Geirfinnur.

1:19:411:19:43

Once the confession is taken, once it's in the air,

1:19:431:19:47

it corrupts everything else.

1:19:471:19:49

My feeling is that the police was under that much pressure

1:19:521:19:57

that once they were on this journey, and went down that track...

1:19:571:20:02

..there was no turning back.

1:20:031:20:06

The rumour here in Iceland

1:20:061:20:07

is that it's all a conspiracy by the police -

1:20:071:20:10

I'm telling you it's not.

1:20:101:20:12

These were honest guys trying to do their best,

1:20:141:20:17

and they did the right thing.

1:20:171:20:19

In the end, it's the prosecution system

1:20:191:20:22

that has to decide what to do

1:20:221:20:24

with the result of a police investigation.

1:20:241:20:27

I think we are learning from this case.

1:20:281:20:32

We're looking into a mirror.

1:20:321:20:35

When there's been a miscarriage of justice, lives are destroyed.

1:20:351:20:40

It's terribly important that the truth emerges,

1:20:401:20:44

and that we correct the injustices that have been done.

1:20:441:20:47

This was a witch hunt that did much harm.

1:20:491:20:53

I remember saying to myself,

1:20:541:20:56

"How did it come about that I was caught up in this public hysteria?"

1:20:561:21:01

And it brought out...

1:21:011:21:04

bad things in people, you know?

1:21:041:21:07

And that's what we're still recovering from.

1:21:071:21:10

It's still difficult for me to see those pictures.

1:21:211:21:24

It's just so painful to see this child,

1:21:261:21:30

because I'm connecting to what she went through -

1:21:301:21:33

but it still isn't really me.

1:21:331:21:37

It's always somebody else.

1:21:391:21:41

And...it leaves you pretty crazy, you know?

1:21:431:21:48

In 1974 two men vanished several months apart. Iceland, with a population of just over 200,000, was a close, tight-knit community where everyone knew everyone, but the police got nowhere: there were no bodies, no witnesses and no forensic evidence. Then six suspects were arrested and confessed to the murders, many facing long, harsh sentences. It seemed like justice had been done, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Forty years later, this notorious murder case was reopened when new evidence brought into question everything that had gone before. It became clear that the suspects had very quickly lost trust in their memories and were confused about their involvement in the crimes they had confessed to. The extreme police interrogation techniques were brought under intense scrutiny.

This tense, psychological thriller tells the true story of the biggest-ever criminal investigation in Iceland's history, exploring one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice Europe has ever witnessed.


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