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Who killed Karina Holmer? Twenty-five years later, Swedish nanny’s grisly murder remains unsolved

Karina Holmer had been working as a nanny in Dover when she was killed in June 1996.
Karina Holmer had been working as a nanny in Dover when she was killed in June 1996.AP

Karina Holmer was a Swedish au pair who became the victim of one of the most gruesome crimes in the city’s history.

Holmer, 20, was last seen alive on June 22, 1996, after a night of clubbing in downtown Boston. The next day the top half of her body was found in a dumpster in the Fenway. She had been severed at the waist, possibly by a power saw.

On the 25th anniversary of the slaying, the Boston Police Department is asking the public for their help in solving the case and bringing Holmer’s killer to justice.

Flowers and an anonymous letter from a friend marked the area near the dumpster where Karina Holmer's body was found in the Back Bay in 1996.
Flowers and an anonymous letter from a friend marked the area near the dumpster where Karina Holmer's body was found in the Back Bay in 1996.RICHMAN, Evan GLOBE PHOTO

Sergeant Detective Gary Mitchell said police are interested in hearing from “anybody that may have seen her, or knew her back at that time . . . or anybody who might want to clear their conscience.”

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“We think there are people who know stuff who haven’t come forward,” Mitchell said. “Circumstances can change over the years.”

Mitchell and Detective Charles Daniels from the Police Department’s Unsolved Homicide Unit are the lead investigators working on the case, and they’re looking for any information that could help them solve the mystery.

“We’re always looking for little bits and pieces of the puzzle,” Mitchell said. “Any little piece.”

Mitchell said Holmer came to the United States to work as an au pair in March 1996.

Slain Swedish nanny Karina Holmer
Slain Swedish nanny Karina Holmer

Holmer was employed by Frank Rapp, a photographer, and his wife, The Boston Globe reported at the time. When she wasn’t watching their children at their home in Dover, Holmer on some weekends would sleep at Rapp’s studio in South Boston. Rapp declined to comment on Tuesday.

On June 21, 1996, Holmer went out to Zanzibar, a popular nightclub at Boylston Place next to the Boston Common. It was a Friday night, and Holmer and her friends were celebrating the summer solstice, Mitchell said. She was wearing shiny black tight fitting pants, a silver colored shirt, and was carrying a small backpack-like purse, he said.

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Holmer was last seen alive around 3:20 a.m. Saturday in the area of Tremont Street and Boylston Place. She was reported missing later that day. The following afternoon the top half of her body was found in a dumpster on Boylston Street in the Fenway. The lower half of her body was never found.

There appeared to be turmoil in Holmer’s life at the time of her murder. The Globe reported that Holmer told her friends that she wanted to return home to Sweden in August because she was unhappy. The Globe also reported that Holmer had written an ominous letter to her friend Ulrika Svensson. “She wrote to me and said: ‘Something terrible has happened. I cannot tell you right now what it is. But I will tell you when I get home,’ ” Svensson said in an interview with a Swedish newspaper that was picked up by the Globe and The Associated Press.

One year after the murder, the Globe interviewed her father, Ola Holmer. He said he carried Karina’s memory with him every day.

“You call it an anniversary,” he said in the June 1997 interview. “That’s a very odd word for me. Anniversary for me is some kind of celebration.”

Ola Holmer recalled how much Karina was smiling on that day in March 1996 when they drove her to the airport.

“She was happy going to America,” he said. “She was a bit leaning on her friends all the time. She wanted to show us, her parents, that she could manage this all on her own.”

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Her last words to her family at the airport were “I hope I’m doing the right thing,” the Globe reported.

In advance of the 25th anniversary of Holmer’s murder, police posted a photo of Holmer on its website to help “solve this heinous crime.”

“Any piece of information, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, could make a tremendous difference in the course of this decade’s long investigation,” police wrote.

Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a Police Department spokesman, said there’s a chance that someone might remember hearing or seeing something that day.

“We’re trying to jog their memory,” Boyle said. “This was such a brutal case . . . it probably didn’t happen quietly.”

It’s also possible that someone who didn’t want to talk to police then may be willing to now, he said.

“People change, people’s lifestyles change,” Boyle said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Boston Police Department Homicide Unit at 617-343-4470. Information can also be left anonymously by calling the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1 800-494-TIPS or by texting the word ‘TIP’ to CRIME (27463).

This story about Karina Holmer appeared in the Globe on June 25, 1996.
This story about Karina Holmer appeared in the Globe on June 25, 1996.Boston Globe Archives


This story about Karina Holmer appeared in the Globe on June 25, 1996.
This story about Karina Holmer appeared in the Globe on June 25, 1996.Boston Globe Archives



Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.