Part 10 - Searching for Juha Laitinen

Round 1 - Searching the Water

Back on the afternoon of the 6th of July 2021, when had stopped searching for Jussi Peltola, we didn’t want stop searching yet, as there’s daylight almost 24h per day in summer at those latitudes and we felt quite fresh. So we decided to drive to search for Juha Laitinen. It was an hour and a half drive from Jussi Peltola’s site to Juha Laitinen site.

The place had an eerie feeling. Driving for 10 kilometers on a narrow winding road felt almost claustrophobic. I had seen my share of these kinds of roads while I was living in northern Finland, but this was something else.

The first site we arrived at was spot number 3, a sketchy place close to the lake. It seemed to be a solid no because there were big trees between the road and the water. Also, the water seemed too shallow to hide a car.

Spot 2 Spot 2 seen from the road.

The second spot, the tiny road, seemed far more plausible. There were trees at the end of road before the water’s edge which weren’t there fifteen years ago. Just before the water, there was a small ledge, which could act as a ramp.

We unpacked the car and started searching. I drove the RC-boat out a bit further to where I believed the car could have drifted. I started to drive it in in a rectangular pattern.

We couldn’t stream the sonar screen because there was no cell phone reception. We had to revert to old school methods. First, search the area, then get the RC-boat back in, after which, watch the recording on the shore.

We ran into another hiccup which I hadn’t anticipated - the settings. It wasn’t possible to adjust the settings while driving. Changing the settings meant launching it again to record an area, steering it back in, checking the recording, changing the settings, and repeating it all over again. It was just too tedious.

From the recording, a few things became apparent. The lake was much, much deeper than the rivers we had searched earlier and the slope was steep. The bottom was a bit weird. It appeared to be really soft or maybe it was the steepness playing games with the sonar. Otherwise there was nothing remarkable. There definitely was not anything the size of a car.

Next we wanted to check spot number 1, at the lake next to Juha’s mother’s cabin. The only viable way to get the RC-boat to the lake was from their cabin, so we needed to contact his mother first. We stopped by the cabin but no one was there. We found another cabin, and a local man who gave us a phone number to contact Juha’s mother. From a hill high enough for cell phone reception, I was able the get a connection and get her permission.

When we got to the cabin, Juha’s mother and her spouse, who had just returned from the grocery store, were waiting for us. After searching for an hour we watched the recording from the sonar. The bottom was featureless except for the remains of a boat.

At this point, we felt we’d done pretty much all that we can. It was getting late and we had a long drive ahead of us, so we decided to call it quits. During the drive to the north, the only thing on my mind was how the hell we hadn’t found anything.

Round 2 - Searching on Land

A couple of days after we found Jussi Peltola and we got caught in the media frenzy, we started thinking about searching for Juha Laitinen again. We had found Jussi Peltola, so why couldn’t we find Juha Laitinen?

We started to summarize our findings.

Spot 1: The lake at the cabin was now ruled out.

Spot 2: It was still a plausible option even though we had thoroughly searched it. I didn’t believe we could have missed something as big as a car.

Spot 3: It seemed impossible, it appeared to be so shallow and the tress between the road and the water were too big.

We thought about the lack of cell phone reception, and the comment we had heard: ‘there has never been cell phone reception in that area’. What if Juha Laitinen’s phones didn’t switch off but instead went out of the mobile reception range? As the place is pretty remote and quiet - we saw no-one on the road while we were there - we started to believe that Juha might have had an accident by the road. There were some really long and steep hills on that road, and the bushes by the road were high and dense.

About a week later, we were driving to the site. This time, to search on land.

We limited the search areas between the last house where people lived and Juha’s mother’s cabin. Searching both sides of the road meant walking more than 10 kilometers in bush while temperatures were still in the 30C’s.

During the night we walked by the road and searched every possible spot. We doubled down on more interesting spots. The only thing we found was a Yamaha outboard engine’s fuel tank. That night we slept under the stars near the highway number 5. After searching the next day we had to admit that the theory might have been a good one, but it had to be ruled out. Once again, we had to go back to the drawing board.

Even though not finding anything felt like a failure, I didn’t see quitting as an option. For some reason my mind was set on continuing the search until we found something. The only thing I was worried about was that we would run out of ideas and not know how to continue.

Round 3 - More Searching

Over the next days, I once again analyzed the sonar images and noted that there was a problem. The depth limit setting was set too low. I had set the depth limit to 20 meters and there was almost 30 meters of water. This meant that anything below 20 meters depth had not actually been recorded at all. We needed to check the place again.

My holiday was coming to an end so this was probably going to be the last search.

It was end of the July, when we arrived at the site for the third time. Spot 2 still looked like a really plausible place. I steered the RC-boat in a similar pattern than the last time but making the pattern even wider and checking afterwards that the recording didn’t cut anything out. The recording didn’t reveal anything new, but at least now we were sure we recorded everything.

During the three hour drive back home, I had plenty of time to think about how we hadn’t found anything and how we were running out of ideas.