ⓘ Murder of Susanne Lindholm


ⓘ Murder of Susanne Lindholm

The murder of Susanne Lindholm is an unresolved 1976 Finnish homicide, in which 25-year-old airport clerk Susanne Helene Lindholm was found raped and killed in the cellar of her Kapyla home.

Lindholm had spent a Saturday night, first in Haaga and later in the center of Helsinki, before ending up at Hotel Hesperia in Mannerheimintie. According to eyewitnesses, she was last seen outside the hotel at about 3 AM, after which she left to Helsinginkatu. After that, no definitive sighting of her could be confirmed. Therefore, it is not known whether she traveled about 4 km 2.5 mi on foot or by car. On 8 August, a homeowner found Lindholms body in a cellar on Sofianlehdonkatu 9 B the following afternoon at 1:30 PM. She was raped and strangled in a brutal manner.

The crime received considerable publicity. Despite floods of clues and a few arrests by the police, the case remains unsolved. New investigations started in 2004 still led to an arrest, but there was insufficient evidence of the suspects guilt.


1. Evening events

Susanne Helene Lindholm born December 9, 1950 worked as a baggage handler in the Helsinki Airport. At the end of the Saturday, she wanted to go out and party. As none of her colleagues wanted to join, she called a male friend in Haaga, whom gave her a ride to western Helsinki.

Susanne started out her evening with her sister Camilla at a hotel in Haaga after 10 PM. From there, they went to the Helsinki Club, in central Helsinki. Susanne met a Norwegian man b. 1947, who was on a business trip in Finland. Susanne and the man left Mannerheimintie to Hotel Hesperia, while her sister left their company at 1:20 at the Helsinki Railway Square. She traveled home on the last bus.

At Hesperia, Lindholm visited the Norwegians hotel room for a few minutes and enjoyed some whiskey. At 3 oclock at night, Lindholm felt tired and had work the following day. Although she refused to bring the man home, they exchanged phone numbers and arranged a date for the next day.


2. Trip to home

Two student boys had seen Lindholm standing outside the hotel, looking around between 3:00-3:10. According to police inquiries, she didnt hitchhike and walked along Mannerheimintie to nearby Helsinginkatu. That was the last time she was seen alive. The last direct bus line to her home in Kapyla was around 1:20, but on other lines she wouldve arrived approximately around 2:45. Susanne had no money for a taxi, and no driver has claimed to have picked her up.

Susanne Lindholm had lived with her parents and siblings in Kapyla at Sofianlehdonkatu 9 B since 1960, four kilometers away from Hotel Hesperia. A neighbor woke up to crying at 4 AM on a Sunday morning. However, she didnt react to the sounds at all, and went back to sleep. Jouko Saarto, a chancellor who lived under the Lindholm family, said he heard footsteps from the stairwell, the sounds of a man and a woman, and the basement door slamming at 2:10 AM. The caretaker, who lived just above the front door and the basement, had heard nothing. The landlord, who lived above the basement, was away since the night before.


3. Discovery of the body

A newly arrived tenant, Esko Savolainen, found Lindholms body the following afternoon on August 8, at 1:15 PM, while he was fetching a bicycle pump in the cellar. Her working day at the airport had been scheduled to being at about that time. As the young woman lay on the floor covered in blood, Savolainen rushed to the caretaker, who called the police.

Lindholm had been raped and strangled with Finnair shirt taken from her bag, and in a brutal manner. According to the Criminal Police, this was a sexually-motivated attack, in which the victim had been treated in a cruel, inhumane way. Susanne had fought back fiercely, but was ultimately overpowered. The clothes were disheveled, with a ski stick and a plastic childs shovel were placed over the body. On the other hand, Susannes father, retired sports journalist Torsten Lindholm, made a slightly different statement in an interview with Seura in 1976. According to him, Susanne had been neatly covered in her work coat and the green Finnair jacket, which she kept on her shoulders.


4. Investigation and publicity

The incident was immediately handled over to experts: for example, the Helsinki Criminal Polices car set off from the police exhibition for the 150th anniversary of their department. Lindholms murder, and later a photo of her, were soon made public. Authorities wondered how and at what time the victim had entered the basement. In particular, the question of how Lindholm had been able to get home without money arose, as the walk home wouldve been too long. Another question was whether she had accepted a ride from her killer, or whether he barged in at the door. Detectives deduced that she had likely been killed within an hour of leaving the hotel. Based on research, the time of death was determined to have occurred between 3–4.

The police investigated every little possible clue, interviewing people whom Lindholm had met in the club and her neighbors. They also investigated the taxi drivers and other potential offenders, but, in the end, Lindholms route and journey home remained unclear.

Initially, the investigating authorities were hopeful, as they were making steady progress. The suspect list was small, with two people being eliminated quickly because of their solid alibis during interrogations. The first suspect was a nervous taxi driver, picked up on Sofianlehdonkatu Street. The Norwegian whom had kept Susanne company was also questioned, but he had a solid alibi and was quickly eliminated. The situation became increasingly difficult, as no solution could be found for months, and the number of suspects growing in the dozens, even hundreds.

The crime received considerable publicity, leading to numerous clues to the case. Hundreds of interviews were conducted on the subject. The police were particularly interested in men who were known to follow and abduct women, observing the premises of the Hesperia Hotel for such predators. Some men were detained for questioning, but all were released. At one point, a man with a scratched face was arrested. Since some skin was found under Lindholms fingernails, it was assumed that she had scratched her killers face before she died. With this announcement, the police were drowned in clues relating to centers treating scars in Helsinki, which were of no use. At some point, the investigators suspected a robbery, as two gold rings a purse had been taken from the victim, but this theory was quickly abandoned. One year after the incident, the police continued to receive new tips every week.

The case remains unsolved. A new investigation was launched in 2004, but there was insufficient evidence for arrest. Ilta-Sanomat s Crime TV report in 2014 garnered new clues, but the two suspects backgrounds were proven rock solid again.

At the time of Lindholms death in 1976, crime scene investigation was already advanced to such a degree, that police were in possession of material that could be analyzed with modern methods.


5. Theories

Due to a lack of a proper recording of her return home, police considered it likely that she had arrived home in a car. This theory is supported by the fact that Lindholm was portrayed as an exceptionally beautiful woman, who easily attracted attention. According to one man, Lindholm couldnt walk down the street without someone batting an eye to look at her. On the other hand, her father said that Susanne often preferred riding on trams than walking alone at night, precisely to avoid unwanted attention. She had been bullied as a child, and was scared of strangers. Just a few months before her death, Susanne had told her sister Camilla that she would never enter a car driven by a stranger.

The area around Sofianlehdonkatu 9 was a quiet, poorly lit area at the time of the event. There were also many small, but dense forests. According to Crime Commissioner Juha Rautaheimo, there are three possibilities of how Lindholm encountered her murderer: she had been followed and surprised at the entrance door; the killer was somebody who had given her a ride home, or they both met at the door. Rautaheimo questioned the scope of the official interrogations towards parties that turned up at her doorstep. He additionally believed that at the time of killing, the perpetrator was relatively young and in good shape. Commissioner Martti Latikka also thought that the killer was less than middle-aged, and estimated that the killing wasnt pre-planned, but came as a means by which the rapist sought to overcome the situation. The judicial autopsy revealed that Lindholm had been violated in a particularly brutal manner, indicating that her killer mightve been mentally disturbed. Vaino Rantio, Head of the Violence Bureau of the Helsinki Criminal Police, said that the perpetrator was an abnormal, sexually problematic and lonely person who avoids relationships. In spite of this, his age or occupation could not be determined.

Both police and Susannes parents felt that the girl had been forced to enter the cellar, which was located behind three locked doors. However, going to the basement was unusual in the eyes of her parents, because Lindholm used to bring male guests into her room. In this case, the killer is believed to have been extraordinarily strong, as the 160 cm. tall Lindholm was said to have been a stubborn, athletic woman, despite her slim build. Instead, the caretaker theorized that the entry through the stairwell and the basement had been consensual, otherwise there wouldve been a ruckus, as Susanne used to get annoyed easily and did not tolerate any kind of harassment. In addition, her keys were found in her pockets. The cellar could be accessed only with a pair of said keys. The caretaker had checked the front doors at 9:30 PM the previous night, and found them locked. No external doors couldve been used at either day or night, because there were doorbells. Commissioner Rautaheimo noted that it was very clear that Lindholms keys had been used, as there were no signs of forced entry.


5.1. Theories Serial killer theory

The murder of Susanne Lindholm was long investigated as an isolated homicide, until similarities were noticed between her death and those of 41-year-old Seija Tuulikki Kekkonen in Kontula December 6, 1980 and 42-year-old Helka Onerva Ketola in East Pasila January 30, 1981. Like Susanne Lindholm, Kekkonen and Ketola had gone to the basement of the apartment building with the killer, where he would rape or attempted to rape the victim and subsequently kill them. The deaths were also compounded by the fact that in all three cases, the victim had encountered the perpetrator while returning from a nightclub to their home at night. According to Martti Latikka, who was the investigator-in-charge in 1995, the identity of the serial killer was known to police, but there was insufficient evidence to arrest him. However, there are also divergent opinions as to whether all killings were committed by a single person. Opponents of the serial killer theory argue that there are too many differences in how each victim was killed. Both Lindholm and Ketola were strangled and raped. While details of Seija Kekkonens death werent released to the public, it is said that she died in a similar way to Ketola.

In 1982, authorities investigated the sexually-motivated crimes of a bus driver living in Espoo named Jalo Eetu Seppanen b. 1944. On July 6, 1981, Seppanen raped and killed 18-year-old Helena Mantyla in Haaga, five months after the killing of the last cellar victim. In this case too, the homicide was by strangulation, and as with the cellar murders, the perpetrator and the victim had encountered each other on their way home. In addition, identical items were taken from both Mantyla and the cellar victims. Keeping "trophies" from victims is a typical trait of serial killers, whom treat it as memorabilia. Seppanen stated that his actions were motivated by his desire to take revenge on women whom had ditched him. His marriage had come to an end shortly before Susanne Lindholms murder. Seppanen was long suspected of killing Lindholm, but was never convicted, and all three of the cellar murders remain unsolved.

The possibility of a serial killer was discussed as far as back as 1979, when authorities tried to make connections between Lindholms murder and that of 28-year-old Helena Korlin in 1979. Korlin, a travel agent who was described by the press as a girl friend of Susanne, disappeared from Etu-Toolo, Helsinki in late March 1979. Her disappearance was the result of a homicide, committed by sex offender Carl-Erik Bjorkqvist b. 1944, known as "Ceeli" and "Punavuoren Pukki". After having his advances for sex denied, Bjorkqvist strangled and thereafter dismembered Korlin. However, any suspicions about his involvement in Susannes death were eventually abandoned.

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