Finnish link to alleged crime that shook Netherlands
Rail crossing accident in 2003, harbour killing in 1961
By Jukka Harju
A bad accident occurred at a rail crossing in a small village in the middle of the Netherlands in August 2003, and the Dutch are still buzzing about it.
Recently it has been revealed that the Dutch man who managed to survive the crash by an amazing stroke of luck had a connection with events at Katajanokka Harbour in Helsinki in January 1961, in which the captain of a Dutch merchant vessel was stabbed to death at the end of an argument.
The man who wielded the knife was the same one who survived the rail crossing accident nearly four years ago. At the time of the stabbing he was a sailor just 18 years old.
The railway crossing accident was strange to say the least. The Dutch man, who was 61 years old at the time, drove his car onto the rails just as a train was approaching, and jumped out seconds before the collision. His wife was not fast enough and she died.
The man was arrested two days after the event, and later he was charged with murder. He claimed that he had lost consciousness while driving, and woke up just before the train hit him.
The police investigation revealed other odd aspects, such as the fact that his wife had a life insurance policy with a substantial payout. The greatest suspicions were raised by psychiatrists who said that he may have faked the unconsciousness attack.
In any event, two courts in The Netherlands have found the man not guilty of murder and manslaughter, but imposed a mild sentence for causing death through negligence. The court did not require him to serve any prison time beyond the more than 100 days that he had been held in custody during the investigation.
The case is still a topic of discussion in The Netherlands. Background researchers for Peter R. De Vries, a journalist who produces his own crime programme on Dutch television, learned about the crime that the man had committed in his teens in Finland, and he is now looking for more information.
For this reason, the TV station placed a small advertisement in this newspaper soliciting additional information. It was printed on May 3rd on page C9 of the paper. The advertisement had the wrong decade, placing the events in the late 1950s.
The Helsingin Sanomat archive has additional information on the matter. Two folders on the incident were found, with around a dozen yellowed newspaper clippings.
The articles go into detail about a killing on a Dutch ship that had just come into port in Helsinki.
The captain had grown tired of the 18-year-old sailor and told him that his contract would be terminated when they got back to Amsterdam. The ship's boy got angry, struck the captain in the back with a kitchen knife, fled the ship, and hid under a nearby train car. The police found him, and even a warning shot was fired. The captain was pronounced dead in Töölö Hospital.
Helsingin Sanomat reported that witnesses at the trial had said that the captain had just come from the city, and was drunk when the confrontation in the ship's messroom began.
This information led to an exchange of letters six months later, where the captain's Finnish widow politely criticised the newspaper for this claim. The letter was archived among the clippings.
The widow said that the captain was not intoxicated, although he was tired, and that he certainly would never have chastised anyone without cause. The letter included three black and white pictures of the captain playing with his four children.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 4.5.2007