A former soldier from the Czech Republic has been convicted of murdering Scottish tour guide Rebecca Johnson in Enontekiö in December 2016.
Karel Frybl – who was in a long term relationship with Johnson and went by the name Radek Kovac during that time – had already confessed to killing her at a trial last August.
But Frybl claimed he blacked out during the frenzied attack which left Rebecca bleeding out on the floor of the wooden cottage they lived in, while working as husky sled tour guides for a foreign-based company called Santa Safaris.
Since the trial ended, Frybl has been undergoing court-mandated psychiatric tests.
Today, the panel of three judges at Rovaniemi District Court issued a verdict saying they agreed with the psychiatrist’s conclusions, that Frybl had been in full control of his actions when he killed Rebecca.
They cited his attempts to flee the scene of the crime and evade capture, as well as several self-inflicted shallow cuts to his own body that he tried to blame on Rebecca, as evidence of his clear-headed thinking in the hours after the attack.
The court described the murder as “brutal and cruel”. The blitz stabbing happened while Rebecca was talking on the phone with a co-worker, and she was stabbed more than 30 times in the head, chest, back, abdomen and thigh.
“Numerous knife wounds showed determination, perseverance, and cold-bloodedness” said the judges.
At one point in the attack, the only other person working at the husky kennels came into the cabin when he heard screams.
Rebecca was still alive, and told him to call an ambulance. His terrified emergency call to a 112 operator was played in full to the court at trial, and he testified that he saw Frybl standing over Rebecca holding a knife. She already had blood on her from wounds to her face.
“The knife wounds have, with certainty, caused the victim great pain and horror” wrote the judges in their verdict.
Rebecca Johnson’s family were in Finland for today’s verdict, just as they were during two days of graphic testimony at the original trial.
Court documents describe the affect that Rebecca’s death is still having on them. Her parents have been in counselling and missed work due to their grief. Her brother and sister have been impacted psychologically by her death and being treated for sleep problems and anxiety symptoms.
Frbyl was ordered to pay costs, and financial restitution to the family members for time off work or expenses incurred in connection with Rebecca’s death.
Although the District Court found him guilty of murder, Frybl’s legal team can lodge a case with the Appeals Court which could take up to a year to be heard.
Under Finnish law, a murder conviction comes with a life sentence attached. In practice that means 12 to 15 years in prison.
“He will be considering with his lawyer whether there are enough grounds for appeal. I guess they will appeal and try to win in the Appeal Court. The probability of winning is very low, but when they have nothing to lose they will probably do it anyway” says Johannes Ahola, a lawyer in Rovaniemi who has been following the case.
“What happens in the Appeal Court depends on the grounds of the appeal. But usually when a tough case like this murder comes, the defendant can request an oral hearing, and that means the whole case will be handled again, in the same way it was handled in the District Court originally” says Ahola.
However, the Appeals Court has the option to simply undertake a paperwork review of the case, meaning they would look again at the testimony, verdict explanation and psychiatric reports rather than call witnesses to the stand.
Frybl has 30 days to lodge an appeal with the Rovaniemi Appeals Court.