From Iceland — True Crime Iceland: The Hitchhiker Murder

True Crime Iceland: The Hitchhiker Murder

Published June 27, 2016

True Crime Iceland: The Hitchhiker Murder
York Underwood
Photo by
Einar Ólason / Reykjavík Museum of Photogrphy

I was only planning to scare them. I placed one shot into the rifle, which I carried in one hand, and held wire in the other hand, to be used to bind their hands so I could drive them both to the police station without incident. When they answered the door, the first girl wrestled for my rifle, setting it off. The recoil kicked the butt of the rifle into her head. She began fighting back, so I struck her with the butt of the gun until she was unconscious. The other girl fled out into the country. I followed her in my car as she staggered in and out of the ditch before attempting to flag down a truck driver—overreaching and slamming into the truck’s passenger-side fender before collapsing on the road’s shoulder. I placed another shot in my rifle and walked over to help her up. She was clinging to the side of the truck, bleeding.

A Ride To “Joy House”

On Monday, August 16, 1982, two sisters were hitchhiking in the South of Iceland, a common travelling method among tourists. In fact, it’s the most common pitch this magazine receives, with the obligatory headline, “Thumps Up! Hitchhiking Around Iceland.” The testimony you read above is from the convicted murderer Grétar Sigurður Árnason. He picked up the hitchhiking sisters, Yvette and Marie Bauhaud.

Grétar dropped the sisters off at a small cabin in the countryside called a Sæluhús or “Joy House.” By the next morning, August 17, Yvette was missing and Marie was being attended to at a medical centre in Höfn.

Marie’s Testimony

I wanted to go to Norway. I never understood why we came to Iceland. Maybe it was my sister’s idea. Once you’re backpacking around Iceland, you know you’re going to be there a while. We visited Jökulsá at Breiðamerkursandur, and still needed to get to Skaftafell. I don’t remember whose idea it was, mine or my sister’s, but we decided to hitchhike.

A car stopped to pick us up. The driver must have been between 40 and 45 years old. He put our luggage in the trunk. I take the passenger seat and my sister sits in the back. I never noticed a rifle. He told us his job was to protect the area and help tourists whose cars had broken down. We get the impression he’s some sort of sheriff or something. He spoke English really well, so he must deal with tourists regularly. He took us to a cabin called Sæluhús. The first thing we did was write a “thank you” to him in the guest book.

I woke up to a gunshot followed by a scream. Everything was still, absolute silence.”
My sister wakes me up and tells me there’s a man at the door. She answers the door. It’s the man who gave us a ride. He’s strangely calm for man shining a flashlight with one hand and holding a rifle with the other. It’s around 11:30 at night. He accused my sister and me of having drugs, saying he can smell cannabis and he wants us to come with him to the police station at Höfn. There’s no way we would let him take us all the way to Höfn. We let him search our bags, but we demanded to see some identification. We wanted to know if he really was a sheriff. He showed us a random card with his name on it. It looked bogus and we told him we weren’t going anywhere. He was angry. He wanted us to listen to him. He ran out of the cabin and came back with some metal wire. That’s when my sister and I got really scared. We pleaded with him to just leave us alone. He left the cabin again and came back with a large rock clutched in his hand. I stepped in front of my sister to protect her. He started bashing me with the rock and I collapsed to the floor. He hit my sister too, but she ran out of the cabin’s front door. I tried to stop him from following her, grasping at his pant leg. He bent over and hammered the rock onto my head, knocking me out.

I woke up to a gunshot followed by a scream. Everything was still, absolute silence. I heard the car start and pull away. Then it’s silent again. I couldn’t move. I worried he was still out there. After a few moments I wrapped myself in a sleeping bag and peeked through the door. I could see a car, but I was scared it was him, so I didn’t do anything at first. Then I saw it’s a police car and I ran out to stop them. They put me in the back and asked me what happened. They drove me to Skaftafell, but I still didn’t know where my sister was.

What Happened To Yvette?

Police Officer Hreggviður Sverrison was informed about the case at 2:00 in the morning on Tuesday, August 17, 1982. He began his investigation at 4:20 when he arrived at Sæluhús. Inside the cabin was empty except for two bags, two mangled wires, a pool of blood and a pair of glasses. No hash was found or evidence of hash use. The guestbook was signed by the two sisters followed by a signature that just read, “Sheriff.”

The police went to Grétar’s house and questioned his wife. Grétar had told his wife he was going to help a vehicle that had broken down, and that was the last she had heard from him.

On August 19, at 8:50, the police located Grétar’s car at Neskvísl. Inside the trunk they found Yvette’s body, lying face-up with red froth coming from her mouth. There was no evidence of a struggle within the trunk, so investigators concluded she had been dead before Grétar had put her there.

Grétar wasn’t found until the next morning; he had hidden in a cave partially covered by a large rock. When the police found him they could see him asleep on his side in the cave, looking outward with one eye open. The police noticed he had a rifle with him and when they went to grab it, Grétar pulled the gun towards himself, cracked it open and removed the shells. “I wasn’t going to use it on you, my boys. This was all an accident,” he told the police as they moved the rock and escorted him out of the cave. Grétar’s car was visible from the cave.

Grétar told the police that killing Yvette was an accident. He never took her to the hospital because he realized she was already dead and no one would believe him. He had gone up into the cave to kill himself, scratching a suicide note on the shaft of his rifle:

“They had hash and when I told them to come with me to the office, they attacked me. I know I messed up because you’d never believe me.”

Grétar was sentenced to sixteen years in prison. He wasn’t a police officer and had no authority to arrest anyone. He was released over twenty years ago and lives in a retirement home in Iceland. Marie lives in France.

Translation and Additional Research by Hrefna Björg Gylfadóttir

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