From Iceland — True Crime in the Countryside

True Crime in the Countryside

Published July 9, 2024

True Crime in the Countryside
Photo by
Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

Charlie’s latest musings take a dark turn … toward murder most foul

You’re rumbling around in a beaten down jeep. The smell of the ocean fills your lungs, the peak of Snæfellsjökull looms on the horizon. It’s beautiful, it’s stunning, it’s immaculate, just like in the brochure. But oh? What’s this? A run down farm in the middle of nowhere? What do you mean this is the murder farm? There’s a murder farm?!

Hello, Charlie here, and those who know me can attest that I have an unhealthy obsession with true crime. Also, as much as Alþingi propaganda wants you to believe otherwise, Iceland actually has quite a lot of crime. We even have serial killers! Well, just the one… in the 1500s — but let me have this, okay!? I have been itching for some true crime drama! So today, I shall tell you the true story of this island’s one and only serial killer, Axlar-Björn.

According to the informational plaque I found in the middle of bumfuck nowhere along the Útnesvegur, Björn Pétursson was a farmer born in the year 1555. He lived on a lovely little property called Öxl farm with his wife, Þórdís. The farm is actually where he gets his name because Öxl becomes Axlar, somehow (I still don’t speak the language). But it is on this farm that he and Þórdís attacked, killed and robbed unsuspecting wanderers, travellers and merchants.

He was eventually caught and confessed to nine murders. But forensic science in the 1500s wasn’t what it is today — and Björn chopped up the bodies — reports indicate there were between eight and 18 victims, based on the number of body parts found buried on his farm. Sentenced to death, Axlar-Björn’s bones were broken with a sledgehammer before his body was severed and buried in multiple places so that he couldn’t come back to life. Þórdís, who was pregnant at the time, was forced to watch.

Fucking hell, that’s dark.

Let’s talk about the folklore and the murder gene. Icelanders love crime stories and the story of Axlar-Björn is one that’s told in a number of different ways, with each version rich with detail, real or otherwise. From tales of dark visions that compelled Axlar-Björn to murder, to his mother craving human blood, its difficult to separate fact from fiction. Which is where the murder gene comes in, because it was not just Björn and Þórdís that were criminals — their son and grandson were also later sentenced to death for unrelated crimes. Now whether that’s on account of a murder gene or trickle down trauma from being related to the only serial killer on the island, one can’t say. What we can say though, is that farm is not a good place to be.

But Charlie, you might be asking, I’ve been to all the tourist places around Snæfellsness and I’ve never seen the murder farm. Oh, dear reader, but you have.

If you’ve been to that little black church, perched atop the rocks where you took those family photos and said “Look, you can even see the glacier!” you have seen the farm. Right between Snæfellsjökull and Búðakirkja is Öxl, where Axlar-Björn buried the bodies. But Charlie, you ask again, gobsmacked at my vast knowledge, “I’m checking on Google and it just says there’s a hotel there.” Yes, that’s true!

If you go to the site of Öxl Farm on Google Maps, there is indeed a location called Öxl Guesthouse, which not only boasts a two-star rating but is also, and I quote, “kid-friendly.” Looking at reviews from people who are blissfully unaware that this might, in fact, be the murder house make it seem really nice. I tried to call them but their phone number seems dead. Dammit, I wanna stay at the murder house. Please let me stay at the murder house. This isn’t a joke, if you know how I can stay at the murder house contact me at

Want more of Charlie Winters’ musings in your life? Read more here.

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