A 1976 cold-case murder investigation gone wrong finally came to a close today. Erla Bolladóttir will receive damages from the Icelandic government for her stay in custody while the infamous Geirfinnur case was investigated. The Prime Minister has issued a formal apology to Erla.
The Icelandic government has reached an agreement with Erla which states that she will receive 32 million ISK [$222,315, €209,383] in damages for her time in preventive custody after being implicated in the investigation of the disappearance of Geirfinnur Einarsson. The agreement with Erla only mentions the preventive custody and the damages are based on the same arguments as the ones who were charged in the case and later acquitted. The 2018 settlement was a landmark moment in the decades-old murder investigation, but Erla was excluded from the compensation awarded, as she had previously been acquitted. Erla stated that she hasn’t quite realised yet that it is all over but that the day has a symbolic meaning for her. “this day, December 22, 1976, 46 years ago, I was released after eight months in brutal isolation,” Erla told RÚV.
In addition to her extended stay in custody, Erla Bolladóttir was sentenced to three years in prison for falsely accusing four men, including her brother. In 2018, the five people charged with Geirfinnur’s disappearance were acquitted of all charges in the Supreme Court. That trial did not include the part of the case involving Erla’s sentence or Kristján VIðar Júlíusson and Sævar Marínó Ciesielski. At the time, Erla was a young mother to an infant. Despite the government recognising the hardship Erla faced, Erla’s sentence for false accusations still stands. Last September, a court refused to rehear her case, but while Erla considered taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights, she believed she doesn’t have enough time, as Erla is currently battling cancer. In a declaration published on the government’s official website, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir writes.
“The disappearances of Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson have cast a shadow on life in Iceland for decades and marked the lives of several individuals. The state of uncertainty facing the people charged in these cases was mostly cleared up with the Supreme Court acquittal, the Landsréttur ruling of fair damages and laws nr 128/2019, awarding damages compensation to the families of the acquitted who were deceased. The acquitted persons and their families have received apologies for how the case was handled, their unjust sentencing and long imprisonment.
But this case involves more people who suffered preventive custody during the investigation unlike any other in Icelandic history. Erla Bolladóttir, a young woman with an infant, was in custody for her alleged participation in the disappearance of Geirfinnur Einarsson from early May 1976 until Christmas of that same year. The conditions facing people in custody at that time were especially hard, as the courts have confirmed. Erla was acquitted of her charges for participating in the disappearance of Geirfinnur Einarsson in a Supreme Court ruling in 1980, so she wasn’t included in the 2018 Supreme Court acquittal or the subsequent actions taken by the government. This makes her position in the case unique. The duration of her imprisonment during the investigation and the conditions she and her child were forced to endure at the time are unprecedented. In order to close the case in regards to formerly charged people, it is natural and fair to issue a special apology to Erla for the treatment she had to endure and its consequences. It is also fair, despite the time that has passed, that Erla also be paid compensation for her stay in custody, according to the compensation that the Appellate Court awarded the people acquitted of charges regarding the disappearances.”