(HELSINKI, Finland) — Last month, a district court in Helsinki convicted three teens for the brutal slaying of a 16-year-old whose beaten body was found near a construction site in Finland.
That was back in December 2020. An investigation into the murder found that the attack was the end result of continuous bullying in a case that shocked the country and led to plenty of media coverage (following Finnish media customs, The Click is not publishing the name of the victim).
Tiia Palmén was one of the crime reporters who covered that story on digital platforms and on TV for MTV News. Palmén has worked as a crime reporter for about 15 years, and she said this particular murder was unprecedented. She recently published a non-fiction book about the case: “The Teenage Murder in Koskela,” named after the district where the killing happened. She conducted a series of interviews with police, social workers, criminal law professors, and people who knew the victim. The nonfiction book and its accompanying audio book came out in July, before the trial. Palmén is currently writing more chapters to the audio book concluding the case after the verdict.
This interview was conducted in Finnish. It has been translated into English below.
You wrote the book in only three months. Why was it important to make the story into a book?
Usually, books about crimes are written after the case is closed. We had a discussion with the publisher whether we should wait until the trial was over and the perpetrators had been sentenced. We decided that we must act quickly.
We had to get the full story out there, so that people could read about what happened. It was important to find out about the backgrounds of the murder: how could we prevent something like this from ever happening again? This can’t be forgotten; we need to talk about this.
What shocked you the most?
The victim was a customer of child-welfare services. Even still, nobody could protect him. The violence toward the victim was inexplicably brutal and there were three against one. None of them stopped each other. The thought that “This is wrong, we can’t do this” never occurred to them. The violence lasted increasingly for weeks, and eventually led to murder.
Were they all just normal kids?
Yes. It’s easier to think that all criminals are different from us, but they are not. When I saw them in the court, they were all just normal-looking teenage boys. They reminded me of my little brother. How could they do something like this? It is incomprehensible.
Can you compare this to anything else in your career?
Not really. The murder in Koskela was so exceptional because the victim and the perpetrators were all so young. They probably didn’t even realize the consequences of their actions. I was in Sweden a few weeks ago and the murder has shocked people there too, even though violent crimes are much more common in Sweden than in Finland.
As a crime reporter and mother yourself, are you worried about the wellbeing of children after something like this?
I have been lately. There are questions: What is happening to our children and why can’t we take care of them? Why do they feel so unsafe that many of them carry knives with them every day? And when you look at the exceptional nature of this case, these four boys were from normal, good families.
I want to believe that the murder in Koskela was so horrifying that it will be an example of the worst-case scenario. The event shocked teenagers too, not just adults. I don’t think that anybody wants to glorify what happened. But in general, I’m worried about gang formation and the idea that somehow it is cool to be a criminal.