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Anneli Auer seeks €2.5mn more for wrongful imprisonment

One of Finland's highest-profile legal sagas of the past decade has taken yet another twist, with the main figure, a convicted sex offender, seeking to increase her record-high damages payment nearly five-fold.

Anneli Auer Suomi-Areena-tapahtumassa Porissa heinäkuussa.
Auer at a public appearance in Pori in July 2016 Image: Pasi Murto / AOP

Anneli Auer, who was cleared of charges that she killed her husband in 2006, is seeking some two and a half million euros in further compensation from the state of Finland. Proceedings began at the District Court of South-West Finland in Turku on Wednesday.

In September, the State Treasury paid Auer about 545,000 euros in damages for 611 days of wrongful imprisonment – the largest compensation ever paid in Finnish history.

Partly due to the massive publicity around long-running case, the Treasury awarded her a record 800 euros per day spent behind bars on the murder charge. Normally it pays 120 euros per day for wrongful imprisonment. In 2013 Auer was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for sex offences and other charges. She was released in 2015.

Auer has accused the authorities of publicly declaring her guilty, citing for instance a police press release saying that she had confessed to the still-unexplained murder. Auer argues that the media has treated her as guilty as a result of such official statements.

Children considered her a murderer

In a statement submitted to the court ahead of Wednesday's hearing, Auer claimed that the publicity around the case has led her three children to consider her a murderer. She also says that she is due further compensation for having to spend about two months undergoing psychological evaluation at a closed ward of the Vanha Vaasa state mental hospital.

Auer is seeking approximately 2.5 million euros in additional money based on suffering and loss of income. She is demanding that the 488,000 euros she was previously paid in damages for suffering be raised to 2,620,000 euros. Auer also wants her earlier compensation of 57,000 euros for loss of income increased to a total of 400,000 euros. Her company, Auer Media, runs a parenting website.

Drawn-out legal process

Auer's husband, psychologist Jukka S. Lahti, was killed at their family home in Ulvila in December 2006. Auer was detained as a murder suspect about three years later.

A district court convicted her and sentenced her to life in prison in late 2010, but the following summer an appeals court overturned the conviction. The Supreme Court then sent the case back to the district court, as new evidence had emerged.

Once again, she was convicted by the district court but then declared innocent by the appeals court. In December 2015, the Supreme Court denied prosecutors another chance to appeal so she was officially declared innocent. No one else has ever been charged for the murder.

During the murder trial, Auer and a male companion were convicted of aggravated rape and other sexual offences against children among other charges. In 2012 and 2013, she was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, which she has served. Auer later sought to have those charges overturned but last year the Supreme Court dismissed that attempt.

Edit 24 August 9:55 This story originally included the line "Auer has also spent seven and a half years in prison since 2013 on sex offences and other charges."

That has been changed to "In 2013 Auer was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for sex offences and other charges. She was released in 2015."

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