An Entire Country Was Shocked
“The small nation of Iceland is one of the safest in the world with violent crime in general not just murder being a rarity and when murder does happen it usually shocks the entire country but what’s even rarer in Iceland is when a murder goes unsolved. There are 6 murder cases in Iceland in which no one was convicted and the killer was never caught. This is the most well-known and infamous.
It was 7:15 AM on January 18, 1968, in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. It was a slow morning with a father and son going out for a walk in the Laugarneshverfi district of Reykjavik. During their walk, they found a taxi cab parked sloppily on the street with the car still running with its lights on and the toll meter running but more shockingly the driver of the taxi cab was dead at the wheel having been shot in the back of his head.
The police arrived and identified the driver as 42-year-old Gunnar Sigurður Tryggvason. Gunnar was described as a quiet, calm, and orderly person. He was unmarried, had no children, and lived with his father in a small apartment. The police arrived at the scene but were unable to conduct an onsite investigation due to poor weather as it was snowing due to it being January in Iceland and it had also started to rain so evidence likely would be contaminated.
So they had the car with Gunnar’s body still inside towed to the police station where it was put in a garage for an investigation to start. At the ‘scene’ police found that Gunnar’s two wallets were stolen making police believe the motive was a robbery. However, on the floor of the taxi, the police discovered the casing of a 32 caliber weapon a very rare weapon which at the time was illegal in Iceland with only the police having access to it. Due to the toll meter still running the police were also able to come up with a rough estimate of Gunnar’s time of death. His time of death was placed around 5:15 to 06:00 AM and his last passenger was picked up at around 4:00 AM but what he did after dropping this passenger off is unknown.
This murder horrified the country and caused great concern due to how Gunnar was murdered I.E being shot in the back of the head execution style. Like today, murder at the time was very rare in Iceland with Gunnar at the time being the 4th person murdered in the past 10 years with the last murder being a year ago. On January 7, 1967, Hjördís Úlla Vilhelmsdóttir Zebitz was found stabbed to death in her bathtub and when police arrived at the scene they were greeted by ex-husband Þorvaldur Ara Arason a lawyer and was currently hammered. He confessed to the crime but denied that he killed her on purpose. The assistant chief of police Ingólfur Þorsteinsson held a meeting with reporters where he said the following. ‘We are trying to find out if anyone has become aware of human travel in the neighborhood during this period, and whether taxis or others have picked up passengers. We strongly recommend that people contact us as soon as possible if they think they can provide any information, no matter how small it may seem.’
Given the rarity of the murder weapon with only 8,000 models of this particular weapon having been produced the police were confident they could find it and started a nearly island-wide search for the weapon. The police believed the weapon was smuggled into Iceland but then found out that a few years prior such a weapon was stolen from the manager of Hotel Borg who had obtained it legally with the police putting a great amount of effort into simply finding the weapon sure that such a rare weapon would turn up somewhere. Meanwhile, the taxi company that Gunnar worked for offered a cash reward for anyone who could come up with information leading to the arrest of his killer.
1968 came to pass without the police finding the weapon. However, that would change as in March 1969 the weapon turned up by pure chance. A couple had rented a taxi cap as Sigurður needed a car as he became a taxi driver himself recently (He was not a cab driver at the time of the murder some vital information I left out in my last write-up). His wife was cleaning the car and while Sigurður was checking the vehicle out he found the weapon in the glove box. Sigurður then called the police about his find when the man the cab was rented from showed up at his house to pick up his belongings and wanted the weapon back as well but Sigurður refused and he left which is why he called the police. When the police arrived they found it was the same model weapon used to commit the murder and due to how rare it was especially in Iceland also assumed it was the murder weapon as the police figured that only one weapon of this model existed in the entire country.
When it was found out that Sigurður was a frequent guest of Hotel Borg when the weapon was stolen from the manager, he was arrested as a suspect and would be extensively interrogated for nearly 10 months and kept in solitary confinement when not being questioned. The weapon was also sent to the FBI who confirmed it was the exact same weapon used in the murder of Gunnar. Sigurður, despite this evidence, would deny his guilt. Sigurður’s home was also searched and they found two bullets and a key chain from Hotel Borg. Sigurður couldn’t answer how they got there but his wife stated that he was sleeping with her at the time of the murder and when others were interviewed no one could recall seeing Sigurður near the area the crime took place. No motive could be established either and Sigurður didn’t even know Gunnar.
After three months in custody, Sigurður would confess that he stole the weapon with the intent of selling it and left it in his car’s glove box however the car was later repossessed due to debt with the weapon still inside it, and a nightwatchman standing guard at the location his car was taken to stated that he never saw Sigurður. It also came out that mutable people had access to the weapon and that it could never be proven that Sigurður actually was in possession at the time of the murder. People who saw him also stated that there was no change in his behavior just before or after the murder the police also only let his wife visit him once after he was in custody for nine months. But since he had stolen it, he was charged with murder.
Presumably, sometime in 1969 his trial started and he was found guilty of murder but his conviction was appealed to the supreme court of Iceland which in February 1970 convicted him of stealing the weapon but he was acquitted on the charge of murder. Sigurður was interviewed for an episode of Sönn íslensk sakamál. When asked what he thought of people who believed he was guilty according to google translate he had this to say, ‘I think this attitude is a bit ridiculous because it is not possible, if you are guilty you must break away from the treatment that took place. Me, there is no other way. Because I know I’m innocent, I’ve been able to get through this.’ Sigurður would then pass away in 2007.
And that is where the case stayed until February 17, 2020, when new information came out and the case was reopened. A journalist named Sigursteinn Másson found a report that two children in 1969 named Valgeir Skagfjörður and Sigurbjörg Steindórsdóttir were threatened by a man with a weapon. He stated to them that he had killed someone recently and that his name was Þráinn. The person told the kids that he killed Gunnar. Valgeir, who was 13 at the time, saw pictures of the weapon used to kill Gunnar in newspapers and swore it was the same weapon that he and his sister Sigurbjörg were threatened with.
Valgeir who was interviewed in 2010 stated that he didn’t believe this man was Sigurður as he shared little resemblance to him. He also questioned if Sigurður was the murderer why he would keep the incriminating evidence in his glove compartment and just randomly tell police he found it nearly a year later and believes it was planted because like I mentioned, many people had access to it.
Sigursteinn Másson belived that the man who threatened Valgeir and his sister was Þráinn Hleinar Kristjánsson. Sigursteinn managed to track the children down who were now in their 60s and showed them five photos of people he believed threatened the two and they both pointed to Þráinn.
Further evidence of this theory is how Þráinn was a convicted murderer.
It was April 1, 1979, and Svavar Sigurðsson was found dead in his home. He had been arguing with his wife Lóa accusing her of adultery which she denied but because of his accusation, Lóa said that she wished she could kill Svavar. So in response, Svavar got a knife gave it to her, and asked if she had the courage to kill him. Lóa proved unable to follow through so Savar called Þráinn his neighbor over and gave him the knife and asked if he had the courage to do it. Þráinn without hesitating stabbed him in his abdomen and then slit his throat. Þráinn was arrested the next day and on May 4, 1981, the Icelandic supreme court sentenced him to 16 years in prison.
Þráinn however could not be questioned for his involvement in the murder of Gunnar or threatening the two children as he passed away on April 17, 2018, at the age of 75. But it was found that Þráinn was also a guest at the same hotel where Sigurður stole the murder weapon from.”