Family murder panel launched after latest tragedy

The Finnish Interior Ministry is to investigate a spate of family killings after a father murdered his wife and their two children before burning down their Helsinki apartment last week.

A 37 year-old-man is being charged with three counts of murder after admitting killing his wife and children, aged one and four, on Tuesday 10th January.

The tragic incident marks the sixth family homicide to occur in the past nine months in Finland, prompting the government to set up a panel to investigate the trend. As many as 73 lives have been lost in 30 such cases since 2000. The killings seem to come in waves, with other surges seen in 2008, between 2004 and 2005, and between 2001 and 2002.

Head physician of the Prison Mental Hospital of the Criminal Sanctions Agency, Hannu Lauerma, told Helsingin Sanomat that many factors can lead to such drastic action. “A family can live in a well-cared-for brick house with a well-trimmed lawn, and then something like this can happen. Heavy, even psychotic depression is often involved,” he said.

Lauerma went on to say that most perpetrators either kill in a fit of rage or plan their actions in an attempt to deliver their children from evil. He added, however, than in some cases, the murders come as part of an “extended suicide”, where the perpetrators slays other family members and even pets before killing themselves.

Martti Lehti, a researcher at the National Research Institute of Legal Policy, said incidents may come in surges due to a copycat effect. “It could be that actions feed each other. There is research on this in connection with suicides,” he told HS.

“The actions can be linked with failure in the role of a man. With one powerful act, people try to compensate for a long series of minor failures,” Dr Ville Sarkamo, of the Academy of Finland, added.