Missing poker player may have been killed by Icelandic criminal

Jon Pill
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Posted on: October 9, 2020 9:30 pm EDT

New information has come to light in the case of Jon Jonsson, the Icelandic poker player who went missing in Ireland in February of 2019.

Information published in the Irish Independent pointed to criminal wrongdoing, gambling debts, and illegal poker games. But almost immediately the family called the new version of the story into question.

To understand what is going on, we need to go back to February 9, 2019.

February 9, 2019

At 11:05 A.M, Jon Jonsson, a 41-year-old Icelandic taxi-driver left the Bonnington Hotel. He was on holiday in Ireland to play in the Dublin Poker Festival. It was his first time in Ireland, and he had brought his fiancee Jana Guðjónsdóttir. Guðjónsdóttir was out for a coffee when Jonsson hit the streets.

At 11:07 A.M. he passed the security camera of McGettigan’s bar heading up Sword’s Road, the long dual carriageway that runs up to Dublin Airport from the city center. He was seen passing the exit of Highfield’s Hospital a few minutes later and then he was gone. That was his last reliable whereabouts.

Guðjónsdóttir got back from her coffee to find that Jonsson had left behind his hat, wallet, coat, passport, and mobile. Within twenty-four hours, Guðjónsdóttir filed a missing person’s complaint with the Garda.

Search and rescue

Jonsson’s family arrived in Dublin shortly after, armed with a consultation with Iceland’s Search And Rescue units. 

SAR is a key public service in Iceland because missing persons are part of the warp and weft of Icelandic life. The nation is the most sparsely populated in Europe and most of that population hugs the coastline. The interior of the country is mountainous and so close to the Arctic Circle, getting stuck far away from shelter — even by just a burst tire — can be a death sentence.

So Icelanders have a good handle on how to quickly find lost souls.

Twelve of Jonsson’s family showed up and started canvassing Dublin like it was the Vatna Glacier. They put up posters and spoke to witnesses. But their search turned up nothing. 

A year and a half on from these events, the family has still not given up. They put out new appeals for information this February on the anniversary of Jonsson’s disappearance.

Gone, not forgotten

This week, the Independent published the controversial article. The piece was by Ali Bracken and said that police had “been informed that Jonsson was killed “by accident” by a fellow countryman after a falling out over squandered gambling money.”

Bracken went on to explain this came from the testimony of an “ imprisoned criminal in Iceland” who played an “instrumental role in communicating a dramatic version of events, now under investigation.”

That article went up on the 4th of October.

The next day Bracken followed up on the story with an article entitled “Poker game ‘could unlock mystery of missing Icelander’.”

The new article gave more details, such as that Jonsson was allegedly carrying €4,000, which he intended to give to an Icelandic criminal. It also said he entered an illegal poker game, and that he lost the money and got slapped about by some of the other players.

In the morning, Jonsson supposedly had a “tense conversation” with Guðjónsdóttir. Then he went to meet the Icelandic criminal, who killed him “by accident” when this second conversation also got tense.

Twist, counter-twist

By the 6th of October, the Independent’s version of events started looking shaky.

The Jonsson family maintains a website jonjonssonmissing.com where they post media updates and try to raise awareness. Thorunn Jonsdottir wrote a statement for the family on this website in which she responds to the Independent article.

Her statement says of the Independent article that “the story is at best based on information from an unreliable source or, at worst, completely made up.” Bracken’s article suggests that the informer contacted the family, which the statement firmly denies.

The family is also pursuing legal redress for the upset this has caused, and are “planning on submitting a formal complaint to Ireland’s National Union of Journalists.”

The Independent has not commented on the Jonsson’s statement or added any corrections to the online editions of the Bracken articles at the time of writing.

Whether these new leads will lead to any convictions — or even prove to be genuine — is still up in the air. We will continue to cover the story as it happens.