Forty years ago, two men went missing in southwest Iceland. The facts of their disappearances are scarce, and often mundane. An 18-year-old set off from a nightclub, drunk, on a 10-kilometre walk home in the depths of Icelandic winter. Some months later, a family man failed to return from a meeting with a mysterious stranger. In another time or place, they might have been logged as missing persons and forgotten by all but family and friends. Instead, the Gudmundur and Geirfinnur case became the biggest and most controversial murder investigation in Icelandic history.
In the 1970s, theories about the disappearances fixated on Iceland’s anxieties over smuggling, drugs and alcohol, and the corrupting influence of the outside world. The country’s highest levels of political power were drawn into the plot. But ultimately, a group of young people on the fringes of society became its key protagonists. All made confessions that led to convictions and prison sentences. Yet none could remember what happened on the nights in question.
Now a public inquiry is uncovering another story, of how hundreds of days and nights in the hands of a brutal and inexperienced criminal justice system eroded the link between suspects’ memories and lived experience.