Police believe the three 16-year-olds suspected of killing another teenager in the Koskela district of Helsinki at the beginning of December filmed some parts of the act on their mobile phones.
Video footage from the night in question has been discovered by investigating officers during a preliminary probe into the suspected crime.
"Various parts of the incident have been filmed. The boys themselves said that they filmed at the scene," Helsinki Police Department Detective Inspector Marko Forss said, adding that police are not aware at this stage if the videos were shared with anyone else or otherwise distributed.
The suspects and the victim were known to each other and, according to police, the three suspects had been harassing and bullying the victim for months prior to the incident.
"We have questioned a number of people about events leading up to the suspected crime. Bullying had been a recurring and systematic activity," Forss said.
Police added that the victim had tried to maintain a friendship with the suspects, despite the ongoing bullying and occasional violent incidents, and he had arrived at the scene near Koskela Hospital on Friday 4 December to celebrate the birthday of one of the suspects.
Victim was "defenceless"
Police believe that the victim was subjected to a series of violent attacks at different locations around the hospital area, but did not seek to escape even when a passerby happened upon the scene and the suspects retreated further into the hospital grounds.
"He was, for one reason or another, defenceless," Forss said, adding that it appeared the victim put up very little resistance despite being subjected to brutal acts of violence for a sustained period of time, which included some "humiliating" aspects.
However, Forss added that he cannot reveal any further details about the victim's condition at this stage of the investigation.
The victim was not found until three days later when a builder noticed a partially naked body on a lawned area behind a construction site.
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All three suspects were remanded into custody by Helsinki District Court on 10 December, with the court setting a deadline of 5 February 2021 for charges to be brought.
"Police assume that all three suspects have participated in the act together. The ways in which it was committed may be different, but all three are suspected of murder," Forss noted.
The suspects had left the scene together, according to police, and had been in contact with each other after the incident. Police believe the suspects also discussed disposing of the body, but abandoned the idea.
Child Services asked police for official assistance
Police also revealed that the victim had been placed outside of his home as a client of child protection services, and they were releasing this information with the permission of the victim’s parents to spark a debate about Finland’s child welfare system.
According to police, child services made an official request for help the day after the 16-year-old victim failed to return to his placement accommodation. The request for assistance was recorded in the police records as a search warrant.
However, this is not the same thing as a missing persons notice as police do not actively search for a child who has gone missing from child protection services.
Child protection services in Finland have limited resources to deal with young people who run away from placements, as they often go missing from an institution or accommodation several times. In Helsinki, about 900 alerts related to suspected runaways are made every year.
Detective Inspector Forss said he believes that more so-called special care periods should be made available so that cycles of criminality can be broken.
A period of special care refers to multidisciplinary efforts to tackle a child’s self-harming or criminal behaviour.
Previous studies have shown that young people who have left the child welfare system are more likely to become victims or perpetrators of crime.
"The situation is worrying. The active search for a child is the responsibility of the social authorities, but their resources are limited. There are several cases where a runaway absconds again as soon as he or she is found," Forss said.