The Murder Captivated Iceland. 190 Years Later, It Will Again

Mock trial revisits 1828 case resulting in executions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 8, 2017 9:25 AM CDT
The Murder Captivated Iceland. 190 Years Later, It Will Again
This photo shows the Illugastadir farm, where a chilling double murder took place 187 years ago, in northwestern Iceland.   (Egill Bjarnason)

Residents on Iceland's remote farm of Stapakot were jolted awake on March 14, 1828, when a maid from a neighboring property burst in to tell them that a fire was raging and two men were trapped inside. It was a lie. The men were already dead—clubbed with a hammer and stabbed 12 times. Despite the years, it's a crime that Icelanders have never forgotten since the convicted killers were the last people executed on the island nation. On Saturday, the crime discussed in books, films, and a pop song is being analyzed by a mock court, operating under modern rules, that will for the first time address the motivation for the killings, specifically whether two maids were abused by Natan Ketilsson, the self-taught doctor they killed along with his guest, reports the AP.

Agnes Magnusdottir and Sigridur Gudmundsdottir said the act was masterminded by Fridrik Sigurdsson, a 17-year-old who held a grudge against Ketilsson. Gudmundsdottir, 16, was sentenced to life in prison in Denmark. But Sigurdsson and Magnusdottir, 32, were decapitated with an ax, with the brother of one of the victims acting as executioner. Their heads were afterwards jammed on sticks for public viewing. The case highlights differing attitudes toward capital punishment. In modern Iceland, the usual prison sentence for murder is 16 years or less. An author who wrote about the crime tells the AP readers often ask what the outcome of the case would be if it were tried under today's rules. Now they'll get their answer. Seats for the retrial in Hvammstangi have long been sold out. (More Iceland stories.)

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