Search Launched in Dublin Park for Icelander Missing Since 2019

The search continues for Icelander Jón Þröstur Jónsson.

Following two anonymous tips, the police in Ireland now fear that Jón Þröstur Jónsson — who went missing in Dublin in 2019 — met his death after a meeting in Santry Demesne Park. The authorities initiated a search for his remains in the park yesterday. The search is expected to take at least two days. 

Missing without a trace

In February of 2019, 41-year-old Jón Þröstur Jónsson disappeared in Dublin. He was visiting the city with his fiancée to attend a poker tournament and was last seen on surveillance cameras in Whitehall, a northside suburb of Dublin. The police had few leads on Jón Þröstur’s disappearance early on, and very little new information has emerged over the past five years. 

Earlier this week, however, the police in Ireland announced that it had received two anonymous tips — sent to the police and a city priest respectively — suggesting that Jón Þröstur had walked to Santry Demesne Park on the night of his disappearance.

The Irish media outlet Dublin Live reported yesterday that police feared he might have been murdered: “Sources have told Dublin Live that officers now suspect Jón Þröstur Jónsson was killed on the day he vanished in the city five years ago – after a meeting he had organised went wrong. It’s understood officers believe he had lost thousands of euros while playing poker in Dublin before his disappearance – and was meeting someone to get access to more cash.”

Search expected to take at least two days

In light of this new information, the police initiated a search in Santry Demesne Park yesterday. Due to the size of the park, the search is expected to take at least two days.

Dublin Live reported that the authorities were focusing their search on two areas of the Santry Demesne Park. “One is a heavily wooded area, while the other is a deep lake in the park – which means officers believe his remains have either been hidden in a shallow grave or in the water … officers from Ballymun have called in several specialist Garda units – including divers and dog handlers. Cadaver dogs are involved in the search – and they are used to indicate if human remains are in the area.”

In an interview with Newstalk Breakfast this morning, journalist Muiris O’Cearbhaill from the Irish media outlet The Journal said that the police had not released any new information but that developments might occur today. 

As noted by Vísir, Jón Þröstur’s siblings, Anna Hildur and Davíð Karl, flew to Dublin last week and participated in a press conference with the police, renewing their call for the search for Jón Þröstur, five years after his disappearance.

Human Bone Found by Fishermen Identified

Selfoss - Suðurland - Ölfusá

Swedish forensic pathologists have identified an upper arm bone that was discovered by Icelandic sailors in their fishing gear three years ago, RÚV reports. The bone belonged to Guðmundur Geir Sveinsson, who is believed to have fallen into Ölfusá river on December 26, 2015. Another case involving the identification of a skull led police to reopen the case of the upper arm bone and finally trace its source.

When Guðmundur Geir (b. 1974) disappeared in 2015, South Iceland Police strongly suspected he had fallen into Ölfusá river from Selfoss cemetery. A search for Guðmundur was initiated, but it proved unsuccessful. The identification of the upper arm bone is the first concrete proof of what happened to him.

When fishermen discovered the bone three years ago, radiocarbon dating suggested that it belonged to an individual who had died between 2004-2007, and the investigation was ended. Another case of incorrect radiocarbon dating led to it being reopened.

Former MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s father, Jón Ólafsson, disappeared in 1987 on Christmas Eve. Jón skull was found 25 years ago, but radiocarbon dating led it to be wrongly identified. It was not until this January that reanalysis confirmed the skull belonged to Jón. That case led South Iceland Police to re-examine the upper arm bone, which led to its identification as Guðmundur Geir Sveinsson’s.

According to a notice from South Iceland Police, The upper arm bone was identified through comparison with DNA samples of Guðmundur’s relatives that had been collected at the time of his disappearance. “A meeting about this discovery has been held with the relatives and these earthly remains will be handed over to them in the next few days,” the notice states.

Prison Logs Provide Vital Evidence in Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Retrial

Lawyers for three of the five defendants in the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur retrial made their cases to the Supreme Court on the second day of testimony, RÚV reports. Defense attorneys spoke on behalf of Kristján Viðar Viðarsson, Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, and Sævar Marínó Ciesielski. While presenting their defenses, the men’s attorneys referred to important new evidence—the prison log books from the time of their clients’ interrogation—which provided a clear picture of the abuses the defendants had to endure while in solitary confinement.

The infamous and highly contested case—called by one defense lawyer a “judicial scandal”— has long been attended by accusations of mismanagement, rampant abuse, and fabricated confessions. (For a detailed explanation of the case and its legacy, see the BBC investigatory article The Reykjavik Confessions.)

The case revolves around the disappearance of Guðmundur Einarsson in January 1974, followed by that of Geirfinnur Einarsson (no relation) in November of the same year. Police never recovered the bodies of either man and rumors and conspiracy theories long circulated as to what had happened to them. The defendant Sævar Ciesielski, who was known to police at the time and had been picked up along with his girlfriend (and mother of his eleven-month-old daughter) Erla Bolladóttir, for a petty crime in December 1975, was eventually implicated in the suspected murders of both of the disappeared men.

Sævar, Erla, and four of Sævar’s friends were also eventually charged with the murders: Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, Kristján Viðar Viðarsson Júlíusson, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson and Albert Klahn Skaptason. All of them received prison sentences of varying lengths, up to 17 years, and their convictions were largely based on confessions that were extracted from them during lengthy interrogations and after spending extremely long periods of time in solitary confinement and enduring serious abuse, even torture. During its remarks on Thursday, the defense also pointed out that confessions were not obtained from their clients until after a year spent in custody.

Prosecutor Davíð Þór Björgvinsson said that the defendants’ confessions had been the only real evidence in both investigations and that the convictions would not have been made without those confessions. One of the primary reasons that the case was allowed to be retried, however, was that the Ministry of Justice’s Rehearing Committee had determined that evidence had not been gathered according to proper procedure.

One of the defense’s primary points of contention is the length of time that their clients were held in isolation. Today, it’s thought that 15 days in solitary confinement can cause lasting harm to a person. Some of the defendants, however, were held for as much as two years in isolation. Erla, for instance, was isolated and kept away from her baby daughter for 105 days, during which she was interviewed 100 times—only three times in the presence of a lawyer. Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson was kept in solitary confinement for a mind-boggling 655 days, during which time he “kept detailed diaries, to cling on to reality, to remind himself he was innocent.” These journals were smuggled out of the prison by a sympathetic priest. Three of them survived to the present day—hidden for safe-keeping by Tryggvi’s daughter—and, in addition to Guðjón’s journals, make up some of the evidence that allowed defense attorneys to secure a retrial.

In addition to these journals, the prison’s log books also provide vital insight into how authorities managed interrogations at the time of investigation. These were not referred to during the first trial and detail who came to the prison where the defendants were being held, when, and who they met with. There are, however, no transcripts showing what was said during these interrogations.

On Thursday, the defense also spoke on the harshness of their clients treatment in prison. Sævar, who police decided was the ringleader, was subjected to the worst of it. According to the prison log, on one occasion, all of the things in his cell were removed. The light switch in his cell was disconnected so that he could never turn off the light. He was also prevented from sleeping by police guards. He and the four other men were also routinely drugged while in custody.

The defense contended that both the criminal court and the Supreme Court committed offenses by ignoring evidence of the defendants’ innocence and ordering police not to pursue these lines of inquiry. The case represents a miscarriage of justice, said Guðjón’s lawyer Ragnar Aðalsteinsson, and it’s important that the court admit to its mistakes. Defense lawyers also pointed out that the case would not even be under review with the Rehearing Committee now except for the fact that Sævar Ciesielski, who died in 2011, fought for years to have it retried.

Following the day’s proceedings, Sævar and Erla Bolladóttir’s daughter Júlía said that in her opinion, an acquittal alone would not be sufficient. “I think getting this declaration of innocence would be the bare minimum because there were clearly very big mistakes made, significant violations, and it calls for something more than just an acquittal. But this is obviously in the hands of the Supreme Court and there’s nothing to do but wait for their ruling.”

In Focus: The Alleged Death of Haukur Hilmarsson

Since the news of his death broke, two videos have been posted of Haukur. In the videos, he states his intent to fight fascism, admonishing the West for its lack of reaction to the problems in the Middle East, and describes himself as an anarchist at heart. When news broke out that Haukur Hilmarsson had been killed […]

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