A 14-year-old girl was walking in the dim lights of Asemantie in Kempele on Monday evening, near an unfinished train station only about 15 kilometres from the city of Oulu in Northern Ostrobothnia. The snow crunched beneath her feet while she kept strolling unaware of the horror waiting in the shadows.
In 2008, in a nationwide satisfaction survey measuring the happiness of inhabitants, Kempele, with about 15,000 citizens, ranked as the best.
In statistics, the atmosphere and attitude of the area carry the torch of positivity: the municipality is known for its innovative approach to entrepreneurship – in 2006 it was awarded as the “The Most Creative Municipality” by The Federation of Finnish Enterprises.
The crime rate related to violence is close to none with 3.77 violent crimes conducted by every 1,000 citizens, according to the statistics from 2010.
But on that Monday evening on November 23, when the time neared 22:30, when the girl approached an unlit area and the darkness wrapped her in its blanket, a familiar figure, a 17-year-old boy with a foreign background appeared. He raped her. Then the boy escaped.
By chance, two locals were walking by the road. They called for help.
“The police dog patrol followed the tracks of the suspects, which led to an apartment. From the apartment, the police caught two men who are now suspected of aggravated statutory rape and aggravated child sexual abuse,” the police said in a bulletin on Tuesday.
According to a local eye-witness, 10 police cars surrounded a refugee reception centre for under-aged asylum seekers about a kilometre from the crime scene on Monday night. The centre was established by the Oulu Deaconess Institute in the beginning of October. According to a Finnish news outlet, MTV News, the suspects of the rape and child abuse were refugees from Afghanistan.
After the interrogations, police freed one of the suspects on Wednesday. He was not present at the crime scene nor is he related to the crimes in anyway. The police found that the girl and the 17-year-old boy still in custody, had met prior on Monday in the same company.
The boy has denied his involvement in the crimes. On Thursday afternoon, the boy was imprisoned on the grounds of probable causes in the Oulu District Court. The prosecutor has to press charges by February 4 2016.
The incident started an outrage on social media: a torrent of death threats, beatings and demands for the deportation of the refugees. During Wednesday, the minister of the interior, Petteri Orpo, said that the government is planning to alter the law to allow the deportation of those refugee seekers who have committed serious crimes.
According to the prime minister, Juha Sipilä, disturbances in and in the vicinity of the reception centres have increased. “The disturbances are caused by both, the refugee seekers themselves and the Finns in the proximity of the centres,” he said on Tuesday after a crisis meeting with the minister of the interior and justice and labour minister and the highest leadership of the Ministry of Interior and the police. Sipilä stressed that not all refugee seekers should be stigmatised because of the crime suspicions.
About 15 kilometres from the south of Kempele, another reception centre in the municipality of Liminka, took precautions and advised the refugee seekers at the centre to “avoid approaching Finnish girls for the sake of their own safety.”
According to the chief of the reception centre in Liminka, Antti Kesälahti, the refugee seekers are aware that the incident causes them harm. Kesälahti said that in Liminka the refugee seekers have been instructed of the Finnish law of equality and manners relating to basic human interaction. “In Finland, eye contact is an act of friendliness, nothing more.”
The rape and abuse have made the inhabitants of Kempele more cautious. A 22-year-old woman said in an interview for MTV News that the incident has caused her to think of her own footsteps in the area. “Previously I walked without worries in the evening. It could be that my walks are moved to an earlier time. At least, I am afraid of walking in the area by myself.”
Young girls have been forbidden to walk in the area and some parents have forbidden their young children to stay at their home yard alone, according to a group of residents living near Asemantie.
A father of two children living in the vicinity of Asemantie said that hearing about the rape felt “unbelievable”. He said that the safety of the area has changed. “It felt safe before but now many have said that one is afraid to live and walk here.”