FACTUAL: Jari – the modern Sherlock Holmes

How do public service providers deal with the increasingly popular genre of true crime? Yle wanted to venture into this category by centring on a real-life, contemporary Sherlock Holmes. DR and SVT wanted to do the same and came on board as co-producers. Jari took on an unsolved 60-year old murder case that still has the power to cause upset in Finland.

The time is June, 1960. Four young adults, two of them minors, are attacked with a knife and a rock while camping at Lake Bodom in Esbo, southern Finland. Three of them die in the brutal assault. The fourth person survives and is later accused of the murders on several occasions spanning more than 40 years. No one has ever been convicted in court for the murders. However, a number of objects remain in the police archives.

Finnish law is still a hindrance

This is where Yle’s new series, Mordets DNA, with DR and SVT as co-producers, enters the picture. All of Season 1, with four episodes which were delivered to the co-producers at the end of January 2021, focuses on the case of the murdered youngsters.

People are interested in crime, and the true crime genre is popular right now

Ari Lehikoinen, Yle

“In the future, the Finnish police will be able to analyze DNA in a completely different way from now, provided the law allows it. This was also our starting point for the series. In the case of the Bodom murders, the police have stored objects – such as a pillowcase with traces of semen – in vacuum packaging so that they can be examined again in future,” says the series’ producer at Yle, Ari Lehikoinen.


He notes that modern DNA technology is so advanced that you can draw a
passport photo of the person who left traces. However, at present, police in
Finland can only use DNA to decide if their suspect is the right person.
In Sweden, the law was changed several years ago and since then, thanks to DNA samples submitted to genealogy databases, the Swedish police have solved for instance a double murder committed in Linköping 16 years earlier. This also makes the series Mordets DNA interesting throughout the Nordic countries, Ari Lehikoinen points out.

The key figure in Yle’s co-production, Jari Louhelainen, draws on his many
years of experience in criminal investigations to delve into one of the most
controversial murder cases in Finland. Photo: Yle

Professor with an eye for microscopic traces

At the heart of the series, like a 21st century Sherlock Holmes, is Jari Louhelainen. His long career includes posts as Senior Lecturer at the Liverpool John Moores University and as Associate Professor at the University of Helsinki. His specialisms are criminological and medical research.

“Unlike in a fictional crime show, in this series we show the entire process from sample collection to the final result. The series contains a lot of technical details and visualisations that we otherwise rarely see on TV,” says Jari Louhelainen.

When the series was being developed, it had the working title Jari – the Modern Sherlock Holmes. Jari Louhelainen also points out that several of the fictitious Sherlock’s methods are employed in modern policing.

Most viewers want to watch the whole series

Reactions from Finnish viewers have been positive, according to both Aki
Lehikoinen and Jari Louhelainen. At Yle Areena, the proportion of viewers who did not continue watching after the previous episode has been negligible – audiences want to watch the series till the end.

“Since our work is documented from the beginning, the uncertainty about what we’ll discover is probably the greatest challenge in making a TV series such as this. If we can’t get hold of evidence or DNA samples, it’s going to be a pretty short project,” says Jari Louhelainen.

In this series, Yle hasn’t been able to identify a murderer. But it was possible to rule out suspects, and that also makes for interesting TV.
“People are interested in crime, and the true crime genre is popular right now. It has also been criticised for ethical reasons, and the ways in which public service providers deal with this type of content is a relevant issue. The co-producers’ support was vital to us, and we’re very much looking forward to the next pitch event for factual content at Nordvision,” says Ari Lehikoinen.

What is the result of all this intricate sampling? According to Jari Louhelainen,
the series’ forensic expert, the uncertainty surrounding the answers is one of
the most challenging factors in making true crime content for TV. Photo: Yle