Sigurbjörn Adam Baldvinsson, who is serving a sentence in Iceland’s maximum-security prison Litla-Hraun for various crimes, had an announcement posted in Morgunbladid daily on Wednesday on the death of a fellow inmate, who is very much alive.
The announcement read that Hákon Rúnar Jónsson had passed away in his home on December 6 after a long struggle with cancer. A picture of Jónsson appeared along with the announcement, which apparently had been tampered with to make him look sickly, Morgunbladid reports.
The “mourners” listed in the announcement asked people not to send flowers but if they wanted to condole, they could make a donation for cancer research. The number for the “charity account” was in fact Baldvinsson’s personal account number.
Director of the State Prison Administration Páll Winkel said he does not recall such an immodest act being orchestrated within the walls of Litla-Hraun before. “It is among the most tasteless things that I have seen and it will be investigated thoroughly.”
Baldvinsson has been charged with attempted embezzlement. Selfoss police are responsible for investigating the case.
On Thursday morning computers were confiscated belonging to prisoners who are suspected of having participated in the crime. The announcement was submitted to Morgunbladid via email.
Prisoners at Litla-Hraun are permitted to have computers in their cells and limited access to the internet. It is, however, increasingly common that portable USB modems are smuggled into the prison so that inmates can surf the internet unnoticed.
It is unclear whether Jónsson himself participated in the crime and that will also be investigated. Baldvinsson’s account that was mentioned in the announcement has been closed.
Gylfi Thór Thorsteinsson, Morgunbladid’s director of advertising, said he is very sorry about the incident. It is difficult to prevent people from sending in fake death announcements, he stated.
The newspaper cannot ask for death certificates, for example, because they are usually not issued until weeks after a person passes away.
It is also not uncommon that a person who is not a close relative submits the announcement, Thorsteinsson explained, because close relatives are often too distraught with grief to submit such announcements themselves.