The unsolved murder of Auli Kyllikki Saari

Auli Kyllikki Saari was a 17-year-old Finnish girl whose murder in 1953 is one of the most infamous cases of homicide ever in Finland. To this day, her murder in Isojoki remains unsolved.

The unsolved murder of Auli Kyllikki Saari 1

The Murder Of Auli Kyllikki Saari

The unsolved murder of Auli Kyllikki Saari 2
Kyllikki Saari (back right) with sisters

On May 17, 1953, Auli Kyllikki Saari left for chapel on her cycle. She worked in the congregation office and went to supplication gatherings. On this specific day, Auli expressed she was very tired and needed to take rest. Though others discovered this very unusual, she and one of her friends named Maiju were granted to go home early from the prayer that day. They left for home cycling together.

On their way home, the two young ladies split at an intersection segment, and a man by the name of Tie-Jaska saw Auli going along a mile further. He was the last person to see her alive. A missing report was filed a couple of days after, as Auli’s congregation authorities weren’t too worried about her not getting home that Sunday. Later, Maiju stated that Auli had appeared to be apprehensive and depressed the whole day.

In the weeks that took after Auli’s disappearance, witnesses detailed seeing a suspicious cream-hued car with a bike in a nearby storage compartment, while others asserted to have heard cries and sobs for help close to a lake in Kaarankajarvi.

On October 11, Auli’s remains were found in a bog near the place she was last seen alive after her shoe, scarf, and a man’s sock were found there. She was half-exposed, and her jacket was wrapped around her head. After her body was discovered, her other shoe was also found. Her bicycle was discovered in a marshy area later that year.

The investigation authorities speculated that the murderer may have had a sexual motive, but no evidence has been produced to support this theory.

Suspects In Auli’s Murder Case

There were numerous suspects, including a vicar, a policeman, and a trench digger, however, nothing worked out from examinations concerning their association. Auli’s killer apparently escaped with all his wrongdoing.

Kauko Kanervo

Initially, the prime suspect in the case was Kauko Kanervo, a parish priest who remained under investigation for several years. Kanervo had moved to Merikarvia three weeks before the murder, and had been reported as having been in the area on the evening of Saari’s disappearance. Kanervo was acquitted from the investigation because he had a strong alibi.

Hans Assmann

Hans Assmann was a German who immigrated to Finland and still later to Sweden. Allegedly, he was a KGB spy. A known fact is that he lived in Finland in the 1950s and 1960s.

Assmann’s wife reported that her husband and his driver were near Isojoki at the time of the murder. Assmann also owned a light-brown Opel, the same type of car several witnesses had seen near the murder scene. In 1997, Assmann reportedly confessed his involvement in the crime to a former police officer, Matti Paloaro, and claimed responsibility for the death of Auli Kyllikki Saari.

Assmann’s story to the officer claimed the death was caused by an automobile accident when his car, driven by his chauffeur, collided with Auli. To conceal the evidence of the driver’s involvement, the two men staged the case as a murder.

According to Paloaro, Assmann said on his deathbed, “One thing, however, I can tell you right away… because it is the oldest one, and in a way it was an accident, that had to be covered up. Otherwise, our trip would have been revealed. Even though my friend was a good driver, the accident was unavoidable. I assume you know what I mean.”

Assmann’s wife also reported that one of her husband’s socks was missing and his shoes were wet when he returned home the evening of the murder. There were also dents in the car. According to Mrs. Assmann, a few days later, Assmann and his driver left again, but this time they had a shovel with them. Later investigators determined that Auli’s murderer must have been left-handed, which Assmann was.

Assmann is also alleged to have been the perpetrator of the Lake Bodom murders, which occurred in 1960. According to the police, he had an alibi.

Vihtori Lehmusviita

Vihtori Lehmusviita was in a mental hospital for long periods, and died in 1967, following which his case was set aside. The man police generally held as a murderer was, at the time, a 38-year-old local inhabitant. In the 1940s, Lehmusviita was found guilty of a sexual offence, and had a mental illness.

The police suspected that the murderer got help and cover-up from the 37-year-old brother-in-law of Lehmusviita, who had a criminal background. The suspect’s mother and sister gave him an alibi for the evening of the murder, saying that he was in bed by 7:00 PM after drinking heavily.

When Lehmusviita was interrogated, he said that Auli was no longer alive, and her body would never be found. Subsequently, he withdrew his statement, claiming that he had been misunderstood. The suspect and his brother-in-law alleged accomplice were questioned in the autumn of 1953. Shortly after this incident, the brother-in-law moved to Central Ostrobothnia, and then to Sweden.

Lehmusviita was questioned twice. He was in a mental hospital for treatment, and when the provincial criminal police came there to question him, the interrogation was made to stop because Lehmusviita’s behaviour became so strange and confused that his doctor ordered that he could not be questioned in his state.

Both Lehmusviita and his alleged accomplice knew the terrain very well, as they had a common working field located 50 meters from where Auli was found. There was a shovel in the field that was used to dig the grave.


Although the case of Auli Kyllikki Saari received notable media attention, the murderer(s) has never been identified. Auli’s funeral services were held at Isojoki Church on October 25, 1953, An estimated 25,000 people attended.